17 December 2014

Such a Tempting Form of Sport

George Gissing, Charles Dickens; A Critical Study (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1898), pp. 285-286:
As soon as a writer sits down to construct a narrative, to imagine human beings, or adapt those he knows to changed circumstances, he enters a world distinct from the actual, and, call himself what he may, he obeys certain laws, certain conventions, without which the art of fiction could not exist. Be he a true artist, he gives us pictures which represent his own favourite way of looking at life; each is the world in little, and the world as he prefers it. So that, whereas execution may be rightly criticized from the common point of view, a master's general conception of the human tragedy or comedy must be accepted as that without which his work could not take form. Dickens has just as much right to his optimism in the world of art, as Balzac to his bitter smile. Moreover, if it comes to invidious comparisons, one may safely take it for granted that "realism" in its aggressive shapes is very far from being purely a matter of art. The writer who shows to us all the sores of humanity, and does so with a certain fury of determination, may think that he is doing it for art's sake; but in very truth he is enjoying an attack upon the order of the universe — always such a tempting form of sport.

16 December 2014

Posthumous Publication

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, An Autobiography (London: Seeley & Co., 1897), p. 2:
The notion of being a dead man is not entirely displeasing to me. If the dead are defenceless, they have this compensating advantage, that nobody can inflict upon them any sensible injury; and in beginning a book which is not to see the light until I am lying comfortably in my grave, with six feet of earth above me to deaden the noises of the upper world, I feel quite a new kind of security, and write with a more complete freedom from anxiety about the quality of the work than has been usual at the beginning of other manuscripts.

12 December 2014

All Right for Journalism

H. Halliday Sparling, The Kelmscott Press and William Morris, Master-Craftsman (London: Macmillan, 1924), pp. 13-14:
Morris condemned the typewriter for creative work; it was "all right for journalism and the like; there's nothing to be said for that! For hastily written copy, which doesn't matter anyway, it may be desirable, or for a chap who can't write clearly — I daresay the Commonweal compositors would be glad enough were Blank to go in for one! — but it's out of place in imaginative work or work that's meant to be permanent. Anything that gets between a man's hand and his work, you see, is more or less bad for him. There's a pleasant feel in the paper under one's hand and the pen between one's fingers that has its own part in the work done. ... I always write with a quill because it's fuller in the hand for its weight, and carries ink better — good ink — than a steel pen. ... I don't like the typewriter or the pneumatic brush — that thing for blowing ink on to the paper — because they come between the hand and its work, as I've said, and again because they make things too easy. The minute you make the executive part of the work too easy, the less thought there is in the result. And you can't have art without resistance in the material. No! The very slowness with which the pen or the brush moves over the paper, or the graver goes through the wood, has its value. And it seems to me, too, that with a machine one's mind would be apt to be taken off the work at whiles by the machine sticking or what not."
A related post: Writing with a Pencil

10 December 2014

The Only Competent Tribunal

Matthew Arnold, "On Translating Homer," Selections from the Prose Writings of Matthew Arnold, ed. Lewis E. Gates (New York: Henry Holt, 1898), pp. 42-43:
No one can tell him [the translator] how Homer affected the Greeks: but there are those who can tell him how Homer affects them. These are scholars; who possess, at the same time with knowledge of Greek, adequate poetical taste and feeling. No translation will seem to them of much worth compared with the original; but they alone can say whether the translation produces more or less the same effect upon them as the original. They are the only competent tribunal in this matter: the Greeks are dead; the unlearned Englishman has not the data for judging; and no man can safely confide in his own single judgment of his own work. Let not the translator, then, trust to his notions of what the ancient Greeks would have thought of him; he will lose himself in the vague. Let him not trust to what the ordinary English reader thinks of him; he will be taking the blind for his guide. Let him not trust to his own judgment of his own work; he may be misled by individual caprices. Let him ask how his work affects those who both know Greek and can appreciate poetry; whether to read it gives the Provost of Eton, or Professor Thompson at Cambridge, or Professor Jowett here in Oxford, at all the same feeling which to read the original gives them.

9 December 2014

The Pressing of the Grapes

Frederic Taber Cooper, "The Technique of Translating," The Craftsmanship of Writing (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1911), pp. 267-268:
Remember that the translator is in a certain sense a dual personality; he must be on the one hand a born Frenchman, and a born Englishman or American on the other. Now, no one can be to the full extent these two things at once; and therefore no flawless piece of translating can be produced at a single sitting. The best way, then, is to saturate yourself with the foreign language, and make a first rough draft in English, as complete as possible, but clumsy in vocabulary and ragged in idiom. Put it away for a few days; and then, with the original out of sight and out of mind, proceed to recast and to refine. A good translation is like a good vintage; the first draft is simply the pressing of the grapes, — the best you can do is to make sure that you have expelled the juice to the last drop. But you must give it time to age, before it is ready to be put on the market.

5 December 2014

Gruß vom Krampus

Krampus contemplates his harvest of delicious, badly-behaved children:


Sei brav!

4 December 2014

Rise and Shine

Marcus Aurelius, To Himself  5.1, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 45:
In the morning, when you feel loth to rise, I apply the aphorism, 'I am rising for man's work.' Why make a grievance of setting about that for which I was born, and for sake of which I have been brought into the world? Is the end of my existence to lie snug in the blankets and keep warm?' — 'It is more pleasant so.' — 'Is it for pleasure you were made? not for doing, and for action? Look at the plants, the sparrows, the ants, spiders, bees, all doing their business, helping to weld the order of the world. And will you refuse man's part? and not run the way of nature's ordering?'

3 December 2014

Hurrah for the Life of a Country Boy

E. Vernon Arnold, Roman Stoicism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), pp. 372-373 (footnotes omitted):
A more real happiness is reserved for the man who gives up town life for that of the country. For it is most natural to win sustenance from the earth, which is our common mother, and liberally gives back many times over what is entrusted to her; and it is more healthy to live in the open than to be always sheltering in the shade. It matters little whether one works on one's own land or on that of another; for many industrious men have prospered on hired land. There is nothing disgraceful or unbecoming in any of the work of the farm; to plant trees, to reap, to tend the vine, to thrash out the corn, are all liberal occupations. Hesiod the poet tended sheep, and this did not hinder him from telling the story of the gods. And pasturage is (says Musonius) perhaps the best of all occupations; for even farm work, if it is exhausting, demands all the energies of the soul as well as of the body, whereas whilst tending sheep a man has some time for philosophizing also.

It is true that our young men today are too sensitive and too refined to live a country life; but philosophy would be well rid of these weaklings.
Title from The Country Life, sung by The Watersons.

2 December 2014

Advertisements

Charles Francis Keary, The Pursuit of Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), p. 180:
[T]he tangible, physical advertisement is the plague of existence: every one must feel it to be so. It defaces the world, and involves, beside, a hundred practical inconveniences. It is almost impossible to discover the name of a railway-station among the posters which cover the station walls; or to distinguish the notes in a railway-guide from the advertisements which fill up every margin; or the table or contents of a magazine which is smothered up in the same way. You cannot open a book, without advertisements snowing down from between its pages: and all the landscape that you can see from a railway-carriage is made hideous by advertising boards. Soon I imagine, as people travel so much in motor cars, the highways will be decorated in like wise: already near a town you may see the beginning of this. Advertising has increased to a vast extent; and with its increase has come the moral degradation of the journals which are its mediums.

28 November 2014

Self-Sufficiency

Epictetus, Enchiridion (XLVIII) in The Works of Epictetus, tr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1890), p. 220:
The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person is that he never looks for either help or harm from himself, but only from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is that he looks to himself for all help or harm.