24 July 2013

How to Be Happy

George Moore, Confessions of a Young Man (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1904), p. 142:
How to be happy! — not to read Baudelaire and Verlaine, not to enter the Nouvelle Athènes, unless perhaps to play dominoes like the bourgeois over there, not to do anything that would awake a too intense consciousness of life, — to live in a sleepy country side, to have a garden to work in, to have a wife and children, to chatter quietly every evening over the details of existence. We must have the azaleas out to-morrow and thoroughly cleansed, they are devoured by insects; the tame rook has flown away; mother lost her prayer-book coming from church, she thinks it was stolen. A good, honest, well-to-do peasant, who knows nothing of politics, must be very nearly happy; — and to think there are people who would educate, who would draw these people out of the calm satisfaction of their instincts, and give them passions! The philanthropist is the Nero of modern times.
The Nouvelle Athènes: a café in Paris (on Place Pigalle, long gone now), popular with impressionist painters in the late 19th century.