12 December 2017

Letters to the Editor

Alfred Tennyson, "Literary Squabbles," The Complete Poetical Works of Tennyson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1898), p. 272:
Ah God! the petty fools of rhyme
   That shriek and sweat in pigmy wars
Before the stony face of Time,
   And look'd at by the silent stars;

Who hate each other for a song,
   And do their little best to bite
And pinch their brethren in the throng,
   And scratch the very dead for spite;

And strain to make an inch of room
   For their sweet selves, and cannot hear
The sullen Lethe rolling doom
   On them and theirs and all things here;

When one small touch of Charity
   Could lift them nearer Godlike state
Than if the crowded Orb should cry
   Like those who cried Diana great.

And I too talk, and lose the touch
   I talk of. Surely, after all,
The noblest answer unto such
   Is perfect stillness when they brawl.

11 December 2017

Live Like a Hermit, Work Like a Horse

William Boyd Carpenter, The Son of Man Among the Sons of Men (London: Isbister & Co. Ltd., 1893), pp. 268-270:
The companion virtue of self-reliance ought to be single-mindedness. Single-mindedness seeks, by concentration of all the attention and all the powers upon one thing, to secure the end in view. It is the spirit which will not be turned aside or seduced. It knows that some sacrifice is needed, and it is ready to pay the price. It compels the attention of the whole mind to the thing in hand. It draws all interest to this one thing. It is content to fling out of the way everything that stands in its path. It will cast overboard the most precious freightage in order to reach its harbour successfully....

To be without the single-minded spirit is to court failure. To possess it is to bring success within reach. It is indispensable in life.

Greatness possesses the courage which can sacrifice what may be useful, when it may also prove a temptation or an encumbrance to its advancing march. Caesar knows when to burn his boats. Industry knows that many a social pleasure and many an hour of relaxation must ruthlessly be sacrificed if ultimate victory is to be achieved. Like Lord Eldon, it knows that the way to success is to live like a hermit and work like a horse! The message of successful lives is the lesson of a single-minded devotion to the object in view.

7 December 2017

Social Media Are a Waste of Time

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.4, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 21:
Do not waste what is left of life in regarding other men, except when bent upon some unselfish gain. Why miss opportunities for action by thus persistently regarding what so-and-so is doing and why, what he is saying or thinking or planning, or anything else that dazes and distracts you from allegiance to your Inner Self?
A related post: Facebook Is a Kind of Self-Prostitution

5 December 2017

An Unedifying Phenomenon

Carl Hilty, "On the Knowledge of Men," The Steps of Life, tr. Melvin Brandow (London: Macmillan & Co., 1907), p. 79:
Every man should perfect his own national type. When a man no longer knows to which nation he belongs, he becomes an unedifying phenomenon. Therefore dwellers on the border are often vacillating in their nature, and polyglot speech is, as a rule, a mark neither of genius nor of character. The most questionable people are those who mingle different languages in a single sentence and who lack education besides.

28 November 2017

The Style Is the Man

Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 103:
So long as you prefer abstract words, which express other men's summarised concepts of things, to concrete ones which lie as near as can be reached to things themselves and are the first-hand material for your thoughts, you will remain, at the best, writers at second-hand. If your language be Jargon, your intellect, if not your whole character, will almost certainly correspond. Where your mind should go straight, it will dodge: the difficulties it should approach with a fair front and grip with a firm hand it will be seeking to evade or circumvent. For the Style is the Man, and where a man's treasure is there his heart, and his brain, and his writing, will be also.
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  • 23 November 2017

    The Canker of Commercialism

    Walter Crane, Ideals in Art (London: George Bell & Sons, 1905), pp. 84-86:
    We may escape the town by train, or motor — running the risk, in either case, of a smash — but we cannot escape commercial enterprise. The very trees and houses sprout with business-cards, and the landscape along some of our principal railways seems owned by vendors of drugs. Turning away our eyes from such annoyances, commercial competition again has us, in alluring us by all sorts and sizes in papers and magazines, which, like paper kites, can only maintain their position by an extensive tail. The tail — that is, the advertisements — keeps the kites flying, and the serial tale keeps the advertisements going perhaps, and the reader is obliged to take his news and views, social or political, sandwiched or flavoured with very various and unsought and unwanted condiments, pictorial or otherwise, which certainly ruin artistic effect. Thus public attention is diverted and nobody minds! But it is in these ways that the materials of life — whereof the sense of beauty and its gratification is no unimportant part — are destroyed, as it were, in getting our living — well, perhaps it would be truer to say, in some cases, a substantial percentage on our investments.

    In obedience to the rule of the great God Trade, too, whole districts of our fair country are blighted and blackened, and whole populations are condemned to mechanical and monotonous toil to support the international race for the precarious world-market.

    Under the same desperate compulsion of commercial competition, agriculture declines and the country-side is deserted. The old country life with its festivals and picturesque customs has disappeared. Old houses, churches, and cottages have tumbled into ruin, or have suffered worse destruction by a process of smartening-up called "restoration." The people have crowded into the overcrowded towns, increasing the competition for employment, the chances of which are lessened by the very industry of the working-classes themselves, andsoourgreat cities become blindly huger, dangerous, and generally unlovely, losing, too, by degrees, the relics of historic interest and romance they once possessed.

    Even in the arts and among the very cultivators of beauty we detect the canker of commercialism. The compulsion of the market rules supply and demand. The idea of the shop dominates picture shows, and painters become as specialized as men of science, and genius requires as much puffing as a patent medicine. Every one must have his trade label, and woe to the artist who experiments, or discovers capacities for other things than his label covers.


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    21 November 2017

    Money Is Time

    George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft  (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), pp. 270-271:
    Time is money — says the vulgarest saw known to any age or people. Turn it round about, and you get a precious truth — money is time. I think of it on these dark, mist-blinded mornings, as I come down to find a glorious fire crackling and leaping in my study. Suppose I were so poor that I could not afford that heartsome blaze, how different the whole day would be! Have I not lost many and many a day of my life for lack of the material comfort which was necessary to put my mind in tune? Money is time. With money I buy for cheerful use the hours which otherwise would not in any sense be mine; nay, which would make me their miserable bondsman. Money is time, and, heaven be thanked, there needs so little of it for this sort of purchase. He who has overmuch is wont to be as badly off in regard to the true use of money, as he who has not enough. What are we doing all our lives but purchasing, or trying to purchase, time? And most of us, having grasped it with one hand, throw it away with the other.

    20 November 2017

    Feeding the Mind

    Lewis Carroll, Feeding the Mind (London: Chatto & Windus, 1907), pp. 22-25:
    Having settled the proper kind, amount, and variety of our mental food, it remains that we should be careful to allow proper intervals between meal and meal, and not swallow the food hastily without mastication, so that it may be thoroughly digested; both which rules, for the body, are also applicable at once to the mind.

    First, as to the intervals: these are as really necessary as they are for the body, with this difference only, that while the body requires three or four hours’ rest before it is ready for another meal, the mind will in many cases do with three or four minutes. I believe that the interval required is much shorter than is generally supposed, and from personal experience, I would recommend anyone, who has to devote several hours together to one subject of thought, to try the effect of such a break, say once an hour, leaving off for five minutes only each time, but taking care to throw the mind absolutely ‘out of gear’ for those five minutes, and to turn it entirely to other subjects. It is astonishing what an amount of impetus and elasticity the mind recovers during those short periods of rest.

    And then, as to the mastication of the food, the mental process answering to this is simply thinking over what we read. This is a very much greater exertion of mind than the mere passive taking in the contents of our Author. So much greater an exertion is it, that, as Coleridge says, the mind often ‘angrily refuses’ to put itself to such trouble — so much greater, that we are far too apt to neglect it altogether, and go on pouring in fresh food on the top of the undigested masses already lying there, till the unfortunate mind is fairly swamped under the flood. But the greater the exertion the more valuable, we may be sure, is the effect. One hour of steady thinking over a subject (a solitary walk is as good an opportunity for the process as any other) is worth two or three of reading only.

    17 November 2017

    The Immortals

    William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Vol. I (New York: Macmillan, 1905), pp. 158-159.
    Once, in a studio conclave, some of us drew up a declaration that there was no immortality for humanity except that which was gained by man's own genius or heroism. We were still under the influence of Voltaire, Gibbon, Byron, and Shelley, and we could leave no corners or spaces in our minds unsearched and unswept. Our determination to respect no authority that stood in the way of fresh research in art seemed to compel us to try what the result would be in matters metaphysical, denying all that could not be tangibly proved. We agreed that there were different degrees of glory in great men, and that these grades should be denoted by one, two, or three stars. Ordinary children of men fulfilled their work by providing food, clothing, and tools for their fellows; some, who did not engage in the labour of the earth, had allowed their minds to work without the ballast of common-sense, and some of these had done evil, but the few far-seeing ones revealed to us vast visions of beauty. Where these dreams were too profound for our sight to fathom, our new iconoclasm dictated that such were too little substantial for human trust; for of spiritual powers we for the moment felt we knew nothing, and we saw no profit in relying upon a vision, however beautiful it might be. 

    Hat tip: Madeleine Emerald Thiele

    14 November 2017

    Immutable Destiny

    Alfred Sensier, Jean-François Millet: Peasant and Painter, tr. Helena de Kay (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1881), p. 111
    The new rustic art of [Jean-François] Millet had made the young men think; at once literal and imaginative, it roused in some minds a whole world of political and social problems. Some called him the brother of Pierre Dupont, the singer of peasants, and the eloquent ally of Lachambeaudie, the novelist of the sorrows of the people. "The Sower" cursed the rich, they said, because he flung his grain with anger toward the sky. Every one talked of the artist's work, and tried to make it a weapon. But Millet did not consider himself so important or so revolutionary. No subversive idea troubled his brain. Socialistic doctrines he would not listen to; the little that came to his ears, he said, was not clear. He often said: "My programme is work. 'Thou shalt gain thy bread in the sweat of thy brow' was written centuries ago. Immutable destiny, which none may change! What every one ought to do is to find progress in his profession, to try ever to do better, to be strong and clever in his trade, and be greater than his neighbor in talent and conscientiousness in his work. That for me is the only path. The rest is dream or calculation." 

    Jean-François Millet, Le Semeur (1850)

    From La vie et l'oeuvre de J.-F. Millet  (Paris: A. Quantin, 1881), pp. 156-157:
    Le nouvel art rustique de Millet avait fait réfléchir la jeunesse; cette traduction, réelle et pensive tout à la fois, avait suscité dans l'imagination de certaines gens tout un monde de pensées politiques et sociales. Les uns prétendaient que Millet était en peinture le frère de Pierre Dupont, le chantre des paysans, l'éloquent allié de Lachambaudie, le fabuliste des misères du peuple. Le Semeur maudissait, disait-on, la condition du riche, puisqu'il lançait avec colère son grain vers le ciel. Chacun commentait l'œuvre de l'artiste et essayait de s'en faire une arme. Millet ne se croyait ni si important, ni si révolutionnaire.

    Devenir un peintre de la Jacquerie, c'était trop compliqué pour lui. Nulle idée subversive ne bouillonnait en lui. Des doctrines sociales, il ne voulait en connaître aucune. Le peu qu'il en avait entendu dire ne lui semblait pas clair. Et il répétait souvent : « Mon programme, c'est le travail, car tout homme est voué à la peine du corps. Tu vivras à la sueur de ton front, est-il écrit depuis des siècles: destinée immuable qui ne changera pas! Ce que tout le monde devrait faire, c'est de chercher le progrès dans sa profession, c'est de s'efforcer à toujours faire mieux, à devenir fort et habile dans son métier et à surpasser son voisin par son talent et sa conscience au travail. C'est pour moi la seule voie. Le reste est rêverie ou calcul. »

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