26 June 2017

The Great Divide

Wendell Berry, Life Is a Miracle; An Essay Against Modern Superstition (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2001), p. 55:
It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.

20 June 2017

His Eyes Were Open

John Collings Squire, "Baudelaire," Books Reviewed (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1922), pp. 41-42:
It is commonly said that Romanticism is distinguished by the desire for "escape": that "Over the hills and far away" is the phrase which best expresses the romantics of all ages and the whole romantic movement of the last century. That passion was present in Baudelaire in its intensest form; but peculiarly. He did not, as did some of our Pre-Raphaelites, turn his back on the contemporary world. He looked hard and long at it; he saw it vile and filthy, and described the foulness he saw with dreadful realism. He was not one of those who avoid life and find happiness by lapping themselves in dreams of things more beautiful and serene, countries of content beyond the horizon and ages golden through the haze of time. He hankered rather than escaped. He was perpetually longing for something "remote from the sphere of our sorrow," but he could never surrender himself to a vision of it; for his eyes were open, and he saw a horrible world and a black universe, terribly anarchic or terribly governed.

15 June 2017

The Ingratitude of Children

Celia Burleigh, "The Rights of Children," The Victoria Magazine, Vol. XXIII (May-October 1874), pp. 119-120:
"Do you realize that you belong to me? that but for me you had never been?" said a father to his son. "And had I been consulted I would sooner not have been, than have been the son of such a father," was the bitter but not inappropriate answer.

The old barbarism still clings to us. We interpret too literally the term "my child," and assume ownership where only guardianship was intended. They are not ours, these young immortals; not wax, to be moulded to any pattern that may please us; not tablets, to be inscribed with our names, or written over with our pet theories. Images of God, filled with His life, consecrated to His work, destined to an immortality of growth and individual development, we may not confiscate them to our uses, nor prescribe their sphere, nor fancy that our care of their infancy has mortgaged to our convenience their after life.

Paternity imposes duties, it does not establish claims. Even between parent and child comes the inexorable fiat of the gods, "You shall have only what you are strong enough to take." I confess I have little sympathy for parents who complain of the ingratitude of children. If the stream is muddy, it is safe to infer that the fountain was not pure. All talk about obligation is futile; "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again."
Related posts:

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son (c. 1821)

13 June 2017

Advice to Booksellers and Publishers

Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1920), p. 40:
As far as books are concerned the public is barely able to sit up and take a little liquid nourishment. Solid foods don't interest it. If you try to cram roast beef down the gullet of an invalid you'll kill him. Let the public alone, and thank God when it comes round to amputate any of its hard-earned cash.

12 June 2017

Among the Humbler Classes

Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1920), p. 12:
The real book-lovers, you know, are generally among the humbler classes. A man who is impassioned with books has little time or patience to grow rich by concocting schemes for cozening his fellows.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

6 June 2017

All the Old Books

Montesquieu, Letter CIX, Persian and Chinese Letters, tr. John Davidson (Washington: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), p. 202:
It seems to me that until a man has read all the old books, he has no right to prefer the new ones.
The original, from Lettres Persanes (Paris: Cité des livres, 1931), p. 240:
Il me semble que, jusqu'à ce qu'un homme ait lu tous les livres anciens, il n'a aucune raison de leur préférer les nouveaux.

2 June 2017

I Wonder How 'Tis With the Dead

John Norris (1657-1711), "The Complaint," A Collection of Miscellanies (London: Edmund Parker, 1730), p. 36:
Well 'tis a dull perpetual round
Which here we silly mortals tread;
Here's nought, I'll swear, worth living to be found,
I wonder how 'tis with the dead.
Better I hope, or else ye powers divine
Unmake me, I my immortality resign.

Still to be vex'd by joys delay'd
Or by fruition to be cloy'd?
Still to be wearied in a fruitless chase,
Yet still to run, and lose the race?
Still our departed pleasures to lament
Which yet when present, gave us no content?

Is this the thing we so extoll,
For which we would prolong our breath?
Do we for this long life a blessing call
And tremble at the name of death?
Sots that we are to think by that we gain
Which is as well retain'd as lost with pain.

Is it for this that we adore
Physicians, and their art implore?
Do we bless nature's liberal supply
Of helps against mortality?
Sure 'tis but vain the Tree of Life to boast
When Paradise, wherein it grew, is lost.

Ye powers, why did you man create
With such insatiable desire?
If you'd endow him with no more estate
You should have made him less aspire.
But now our appetites you vex and cheat
With real hunger, and phantastick meat.

31 May 2017

A Shot in the Dark

A transcript of a clip from Barbet Schroeder's The Charles Bukowski Tapes :
Schroeder: You said that starving doesn't create art, that it creates many things, but mainly it creates time.

Bukowski: Oh, yeah, well, that's very basic. I hate to use up your film to say this, but you know, if you work an 8-hour job, you're going to get 55 cents an hour. If you stay home you're not going to get any money but you're going to have time to write things down on paper. I guess I was one of those rarities of our modern times who did starve for his art. I really starved, you know, to have a 24-hour day unintruded upon by other people. I gave up food, I gave up everything, just to... I was a nut. I was dedicated.

But you see, the problem is that you can be a dedicated nut and not be able to do it. Dedication without talent is useless. You understand what I mean? Dedication alone is not enough. You can starve and want to do it [laughing]. Hey, you know ... And how many do that? They starve in the gutters and they don't make it.

Schroeder: But you knew you had talent.

Bukowski: They all think they have. How do you know that you're the one? You don't know. It's a shot in the dark. You take it, or you become a normal, civilized person from 8 to 5: get married, have children, Christmas together, here comes grandma, "Hi Grandma, come on in, how are you?" Shit, I couldn't take that. I'd rather murder myself.

I guess, just, in the blood of me, I couldn't stand the whole thing that's going on, the ordinariness of life. I couldn't stand family life. I couldn't stand job life. I couldn't stand anything I looked at. I just decided I either had to starve, make it, go mad, come through, or do something. Even if I hadn't made it on writing ... something. I could not do the 8 to 5. I would have been a suicide. No, something. Something. I'm sorry, I could not accept the snail's pace, 8 to 5, Johnny Carson, happy birthday, Christmas, New Year's. To me this is the sickest of all sick things.


29 May 2017

No Strength Without Truth

Ernst von Feuchtersleben, The Dietetics of the Soul (London: John Churchill, 1852), pp.140-142:
All morality consists in truth, and all depravity in falsehood. Life and health accompany the former; the latter is destruction. Constant falsehood and painful self-restraint corrode the innermost springs of life, like a hidden poison; while we ourselves experience a morbid pleasure in feeding the worm which destroys us....

All thinking men have recognised this evil, and directed the attention of their brethren to it. "Your salvation depends on truth; be true at every breath;" and what they say to the species, the physician enjoins to the individual. To play a part throughout life must weary us out before our time; even if we could exclaim as justly as Augustus, in the closing scene, "Plaudite." Hufeland has compared this condition of the mind to a continual mental convulsion — a slow nervous fever. Why, then, submit to it? Is it not more easy to be true? — to appear what we are? To man I would say, "there is no strength without truth; and to woman, there is no beauty without truth."

I have a discovery to reveal as easy and as difficult as that of Columbus and his egg: it is this; that genius is nothing but truth. That writer will appear original to us who, instead of consulting books on his subject, replies with truth to the questions he asks himself. In this manner he writes what the learned will read with envious surprise, and with a freshness which even poets might covet. It is certain that we should be better authors by being more moral and true. At present we are nothing, because we are false, and therefore diseased. Shame and repentance are the enervating consequences which await us on our course. Yet we might avoid this fatal tendency by assuming courage enough not to belie ourselves or others — by daring to be what we really are. Can any happiness equal the feeling that we carry our own bliss constantly with us? Always and everywhere will thought then furnish food for self-communion, imagination create a world of fancies, and life give scope to feeling, or to the promptings of a pure will.
The original can be found in Feuchtersleben's Zur Diätetik der Seele (Halle: Hermann Gesenius, 1893), pp. 121-123.