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.
Related posts:

  • Gobbledygook
  • Mumbo Jumbo
  • The Indistinctness of Their Own Conceptions
  • 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. »

    Related posts:

    9 November 2017

    The Death of Ethical Principles

    Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), p. 41:
    [In Either/Or] I believe Kierkegaard asserts ... [that] the aesthetic [way of life] can be chosen seriously, although the burden of choosing it can be as passion-ridden as that of choosing the ethical [way of life]. I think especially of those young men of my father’s generation who watched their own earlier ethical principles die along with the deaths of their friends in the trenches in the mass murder of Ypres and the Somme; and who returned determined that nothing was ever going to matter to them again and invented the aesthetic triviality of the nineteen-twenties.

    Alfred Bastien, Canadian Gunners in the Mud (1917)

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    8 November 2017

    Seriously or Not at All

    John Ruskin, "Ideals of Beauty," Modern Painters, Vol. II (New York: John W. Lovell Company, 1885), p. 191:
    Art, properly so called, is no recreation, it cannot be learned at spare moments, nor pursued when we have nothing better to do. It is no handiwork for drawing-room tables; no relief of the ennui of boudoirs; it must be understood and undertaken seriously or not at all. To advance it men's lives must be given, and to receive it their hearts.

    2 November 2017

    Hank on Potheads

    From a clip of Barbet Schroeder's The Charles Bukowski Tapes :
    Interviewer: What do you think of drugs versus alcohol?

    Charles Bukowski: Ah, my favourite subject. I think a man can keep on drinking for centuries and he'll never die, especially wine and beer. But I've met too many young people, especially when I was working for Open City, just smoking marijuana, within a two year period, who were intelligent at first and after two years of marijuana they just came around going [airhead voice]: "Haaaaaaay! Haaaaaaay! How you doooing?"

    I'm going to be one of the first to say that marijuana is very, ultimately, destructive. And then, finally, there'll be government studies to prove that it's totally harmful, much more harmful than it's ever been exposed to have been. Because I've seen it through people, they just end up [airhead voice]: "Haaaaaay...haaaaaaay..." And I don't like that. I like drunkards, man, because drunkards, they come out of it, they're sick and they spring back, they spring back and forth. But even the light drug freaks, they're just [airhead voice]: "Okaaaay. Okaaaay." It's like all mind circulation and all spirit has been cut off....

    Alcohol gives you the release of the dream without the deadness of the drugs. You know, you can come back down. You have your hangover to face, that's the tough part. You get over it, you do your job, you come back, you drink again. I'm all for alcohol, I'll tell ya. It's the thing.

    30 October 2017

    Clinched Nails Stick

    C. A. L. Richards, "Books and Reading,"The Protestant Episcopal Review, Vol. 8 (June 1895), pp. 503-526 (at p. 523):
    A wise reader, I think, makes much use of a note book as he reads, and if he is a very wise reader it will be a notebook and not a stray scrap of paper, which he will presently lose or destroy. The fact or thought noted today may be of worth to you twenty years to come. Even if your scraps be not lost or destroyed, they may be hopelessly disarranged. An accident may throw into confusion the careful note taking of a year's work on an important theme, and the chaos be too complete to be dealt with, and out of those huddled heaps no creation be possible. But the habit of note taking is invaluable. It compels you to read with your whole mind and think as you read. It fastens things in your note book and on your memory. It gives you permanent hold of what is best in volumes you may never open again. Burke was said to read as if he should never see his book a second time. A late Governor of Ohio, now President of a Western University, noted for the range of his reading and his full command of what he had read, told me that early in life he discovered that to read a book intelligently with immediate possession of its contents required for him a certain amount of time and effort. If he stopped then, the results of his reading gradually oozed away from him. But a very little added time and effort, a little exacter analysis, more thorough review and meditation, made him master of his book or what he valued in it for all time to come. He did not trust its contents to sink into his memory by its own weight. He drove it home and clinched it. And clinched nails stick.
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    26 October 2017

    Beautiful Tools

    Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1923):
    I love the tools made for mechanics. I stop at the windows of hardware stores. If I could only find an excuse to buy many more of them than I have already bought on the mere pretense that I might have use for them! They are so beautiful, so simple and plain and straight to their meaning. There is no “Art” about them, they have not been made beautiful, they are beautiful.
    I haven't posted anything this week because I spent all my free time working on my bathroom. (What is the best way to lift a 300lb cast iron tub, you ask? Try using the emergency scissor jack from your car.) If I had to name a beautiful tool this evening it would be the 10 inch Knipex pliers-wrench with ratcheting, smooth parallel jaws (1¾ inch capacity) that won't chew up metal surfaces. An ingenious design, and it's impossible to imagine life without one now. I don't cycle as much as I used to, but I still covet the pricey 5 inch mini version to keep in my backpack.


    In Deutschland hergestellt

    On the off chance anyone else has an old clawfoot bathtub, I can also recommend the Magic Eraser. I've tried everything from vinegar to denture tablets, but only Mr. Clean was able to remove decades of iron stains and restore it to a gleaming white.

    Not unrelated posts:

    21 October 2017

    The Wise Man Stays at Home

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance," Emerson's Complete Works, Vol. II (London: The Waverley Book Company Ltd., 1898), pp. 79-80:
    It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for ail educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.

    I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.

    Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples; and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
     Related posts:

    19 October 2017

    Original Sin

    Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 248:
    In our ignorance and complacency, we deride ancient stories about the nature of evil – equate them half-consciously with childish things best put away. This is an exceedingly arrogant position. There is no evidence whatsoever that we understand the nature of evil any better than our forebears, despite our psychology, even though our expanded technological power has made us much more dangerous when we are possessed. Our ancestors were at least constantly concerned with the problem of evil. Acceptance of the harsh Christian dogma of Original Sin, for example (despite its pessimism and apparent inequity) at least meant recognition of evil; meant some comprehension of the tendency towards evil as an intrinsic, heritable aspect of human nature. From the perspective informed by belief in Original Sin, individual actions and motivations must always be carefully scrutinized and considered – even when apparently benevolent – lest the ever-present adversarial tendencies “accidentally” gain the upper hand. The dogma of Original Sin forces every individual to regard himself as the (potential) immediate source of evil – to locate the terrible underworld of mythology and its denizens in intrapsychic space. It is no wonder that this idea has become unpopular: nonetheless, evil exists somewhere. It remains difficult not to see hypocrisy in the souls of those who wish to localize it somewhere else.

    16 October 2017

    Faithful Obedience to a Natural Vocation

    J. R. Seeley, "Wilhelm Meister," Goethe; Reviewed After Sixty Years (London: Seeley and Co. Ltd., 1894), pp. 127-128:
    What was Goethe's vocation? Or, since happiness consists in faithful obedience to a natural vocation, what was Goethe's happiness? His happiness is a kind of religion, a perpetual rapt contemplation, a beatific vision. The object of this contemplation is Nature, the laws or order of the Universe to which we belong. Of such contemplation he recognizes two kinds, one of which he calls Art and the other Science. He was in the habit of thinking that in Art and Science taken together he possessed an equivalent for what other men call their religion.

    12 October 2017

    German Scholarship

    H. Ogram Matuce, pseudonym of Charles Francis Keary (1848–1917), A Wanderer (London: Keegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1888), pp. 94-95:
    A German student takes up some object of study in the same spirit in which a commonplace man takes up the collection of birds and butterflies. His object is to get together all that has been said or written upon that pin-point of a subject. Whether it is useful or useless it is all fish for his net. It goes to swell the appearance of learning in his pamphlet. One can imagine the fascination of this sort of specimen hunting; and as, so far as I can see, it involves no great exercise of thought or criticism, it can be laid down and taken up again at any moment. I can fancy the professor going through his piles of books and indexes in search of, say, any mention of knucklebones from Greek days downwards. I day say it requires an ingenuity, a practised scent, to detect the traces of your quarry. And in order to make the sport the better, German writers rarely indulge in indexes. But at day's end the student can lay aside his task with as much ease as the bottle-maker can leave off his blowing, and can turn to his beer and Kegelspiel with an even mind.

    Yet, as companions in the daytime, as mute figures, I mean, grouped about the University Library, you could not have desired better. I grew to love them less for their individual qualities than as you may grow to love the furniture of a room for its associations and suggestiveness.

    Georg Mühlberg, Cantus (c. 1900)
    The bandage? Mensur.

    10 October 2017

    The Loneliness of the Soul in Adolescence

    Julian Barnes, Levels of Life (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2013), p. 111:
    There are two essential kinds of loneliness: that of not having found someone to love, and that of having been deprived of the one you did love. The first kind is worse. Nothing can compare to the loneliness of the soul in adolescence. 

    3 October 2017

    A Charming and Interesting Task

    Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door  (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), pp. 240-241:
    What a charming and interesting task there is for some critic of catholic tastes and sympathetic judgment to undertake rescue work among the lost books which would repay salvage! A small volume setting forth their names and their claims to attention would be interesting in itself, and more interesting in the material to which it would serve as an introduction. I am sure there are many good books, possibly there are some great ones, which have been swept away for a time in the rush. What chance, for example, has any book by an unknown author which is published at a moment of great national excitement, when some public crisis arrests the popular mind? Hundreds have been still-born in this fashion, and are there none which should have lived among them?
    A related post: Maugham on Posterity

    26 September 2017

    Bad Art and Bad Manners

    Norman MacCaig, at about the 7 minute mark in the film A Man in My Position:
    Interviewer: Lucidity, is this an important word for you?

    MacCaig: I think it is, very much so. I don't mind a poem being difficult, if the poem is about a thing that is difficult to say. But if a poem seems to me willfully obscure, or obscure because the man has not got his mind clear about what he is writing about, then, to use a phrase I have used before, I consider it to be not only bad art, but bad manners, because poetry is surely a communication.
    A related post: A Fool's Trick

    21 September 2017

    Witnesses to Destruction

    Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner (Paris: Georges Petit & Henri Floury, 1928), pp. 174-175 (from the draft of my soon-to-be-published translation):
    Mechanization requires intrusive changes, and every day it destroys irreplaceable cultural landmarks. We watch as a sly vandalism spoils and deadens everything with the exasperating consent of an indifferent public. Speculators lay waste to the forests, and where there was once a cluster of trees worthy of the painter Théodore Rousseau we now find a sawmill in the midst of an empty plain. The heirs to the old country estates are unable to keep up with the crushing taxes and are selling up and parcelling off their land: housing developers will use it to erect twenty ridiculous and commonplace boxes. The factory's chimney and turbines disgrace and defile the lovely river. The village church falls into disrepair, and the local wiseacres look forward to when this “temple of superstition” eventually collapses. Every day, somewhere, a porch or an arch is pulled down. The soft, thatched roof is proscribed. Cement and corrugated steel, convenient and hideous, take the place of stone and slate. The merchant cartel plunders the countryside, removing its furnishings and period ornaments and replacing them with modern junk. Provincial talent creates masterpieces, but it is pushed aside in favour of trends from Paris that are Parisian in name alone. Thanks to poor regional education, it will be impossible to rebuild things once people realize the terrible mistake they made when they threw it all away. The decent and sensible French have resisted tenaciously, but the domestic and religious attitudes that were suited to this old way of life are still under harsh attack. We are indeed witnesses to destruction: it will continue for a long while yet, but it is only a matter of time. Whatever regret or disgust we may feel, it is our right and duty as artists to struggle for these places and this society as our forefathers did for theirs: to preserve them in pictures, to honour their beauty, and to show how much we loved them.
    Henri Le Sidaner, Clair de lune à Gerberoy (1904)

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    20 September 2017

    A Fart in the Wind

    Atticus Greene Haygood,  Jack-Knife and Brambles (Nashville: Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South: 1894), pp. 144-145:
    No writer makes the world shake; but an egotist thinks he can, and the anticipation makes him delirious with delight. And he believes it does shake; to borrow a characterization of a panic-hunting person from a witty friend, "he mistakes the rumblings of his own bowels for the premonitions of an earthquake."

    19 September 2017

    The Gate of Sorrow

    Carl Hilty, Happiness, tr. Francis Greenwood Peabody (New York: Macmillan, 1903), pp. 121-122:
    Suffering, then, lies on the road to life, and one must expect to meet it if he would be happy. Many a person, when he sees this lion in his path, turns about and contents himself with something less than happiness. And yet it is also true, as experience teaches, that in our misfortunes, as in our enjoyments, imagination greatly outruns reality. Our pain is seldom as great as our imagination pictures it. Sorrow is often the gate which opens into great happiness. Thus the true life calls for a certain severity of dealing, as if one should say to himself: "You may like to do this thing, or you may not like to do it, but you must do it"; and true education rests on these two foundation stones, love of truth and courage for the right. Without them, education is worthless.
    For the German see Hilty's Glück, Vol. I (Frauenfeld: Huber & Co., 1907), pp. 209-210.

    A related post:

    15 September 2017

    A Prayer for England

    George Borrow, The Bible in Spain (London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1907), pp. 459-460:
    O England! long, long may it be ere the sun of thy glory sink beneath the wave of darkness! Though gloomy and portentous clouds are now gathering rapidly around thee, still, still may it please the Almighty to disperse them, and to grant thee a futurity longer in duration and still brighter in renown than thy past! Or if thy doom be at hand, may that doom be a noble one, and worthy of her who has been styled the Old Queen of the waters! May thou sink, if thou dost sink, amidst blood and flame, with a mighty noise, causing more than one nation to participate in thy downfall! Of all fates, may it please the Lord to preserve thee from a disgraceful and a slow decay; becoming, ere extinct, a scorn and a mockery for those self-same foes who now, though they envy and abhor thee, still fear thee, nay, even against their will, honour and respect thee.

    Arouse thee, whilst yet there is time, and prepare thee for the combat of life and death! Cast from thee the foul scurf which now encrusts thy robust limbs, which deadens their force, and makes them heavy and powerless! Cast from thee thy false philosophers, who would fain decry what, next to the love of God, has hitherto been deemed most sacred, the love of the mother land!

    13 September 2017

    All Leading to Dark Passages

    John Keats, letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (May 3rd, 1818), Letters of John Keats to his Family and Friends, ed. Sidney Colvin (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), p. 107-108:
    I compare human life to a large Mansion of Many apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me — The first we step into we call the infant or thoughtless Chamber, in which we remain as long as we do not think — We remain there a long while, and notwithstanding the doors of the second Chamber remain wide open, showing a bright appearance, we care not to hasten to it; but are at length imperceptibly impelled by the awakening of the thinking principle within us we no sooner get into the second Chamber, which I shall call the Chamber of Maiden-Thought, than we become intoxicated with the light and the atmosphere, we see nothing but pleasant wonders, and think of delaying there for ever in delight: However among the effects this breathing is father of is that tremendous one of sharpening one's vision into the heart and nature of Man — of convincing one's nerves that the world is full of Misery and Heartbreak, Pain, Sickness, and oppression — whereby this Chamber of Maiden Thought becomes gradually darkened, and at the same time, on all sides of it, many doors are set open — but all dark — all leading to dark passages — We see not the balance of good and evil — we are in a mist — we are now in that state — We feel the "burden of the Mystery."

    8 September 2017

    Silly and Shiftless

    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), p. 257:
    §280

    CHILDLIKE — Those who live like children — those who do not have to struggle for their daily bread, and do not think that their actions have any ultimate signification — remain childlike.
    The original, from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, p. 230:
    Kindlich. — Wer lebt wie die Kinder — also nicht um sein Brod kämpft und nicht glaubt, dass seinen Handlungen eine endgültige Bedeutung zukomme — bleibt kindlich.

    6 September 2017

    Baudelaire in Brussels

    An exposition on Charles Baudelaire opens at the Brussels City Museum tomorrow:
    Between swear words and insults, the exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to discover 1860s Brussels as seen through the eyes of Baudelaire, their guide. This was the Brussels of the waning years of Leopold I's reign, of the Senne, of black soap, and of the first photographs. To soften the dark outlook of the author, special guests – some of whom were Baudelaire's friends or acquaintances, such as Nadar, Victor Hugo, the Stevens brothers, Camille Lemonnier, Georges Barral – complement the portrait drawn of the town.
    Portrait of Baudelaire by Félix Vallotton (1902)

    They are selling my translation of Five Days in Brussels with Charles Baudelaire  in the museum shop, so if you visit don't forget to pick up copies for all your friends and family. The book is also available on Amazon.

    1 September 2017

    The Value of a Noble, Inspiriting Text

    Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door  (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), pp. 17-18:
    This is one of the things which human society has not yet understood—the value of a noble, inspiriting text. When it does we shall meet them everywhere engraved on appropriate places, and our progress through the streets will be brightened and ennobled by one continual series of beautiful mental impulses and images, reflected into our souls from the printed thoughts which meet our eyes. To think that we should walk with empty, listless minds while all this splendid material is running to waste. I do not mean mere Scriptural texts, for they do not bear the same meaning to all, though what human creature can fail to be spurred onwards by "Work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work." But I mean those beautiful thoughts—who can say that they are uninspired thoughts?—which may be gathered from a hundred authors to match a hundred uses. A fine thought in fine language is a most precious jewel, and should not be hid away, but be exposed for use and ornament.

    29 August 2017

    Questions Unasked

    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 197-198:
    §196

    THE MOST PERSONAL QUESTIONS OF TRUTH.  — What am I really doing, and what do I mean by doing it? That is the question of truth which is not taught under our present system of education, and consequently not asked, because there is no time for it. On the other hand we have always time and inclination for talking nonsense with children, rather than telling them the truth; for flattering women who will later on be mothers, rather than telling them the truth; and for speaking with young men about their future and their pleasures, rather than about the truth!

    But what, after all, are seventy years ! — Time  passes, and they soon come to an end; it matters as little to us as it does to the wave to know how and whither it is rolling! No, it might even be wisdom not to know it.

    "Agreed; but it shows a want of pride not even to inquire into the matter; our culture does not tend to make people proud."

    "So much the better!"

    "Is it really?"
    The original, from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, pp. 178-179:
    Die persönlichsten Fragen der Wahrheit. — "Was ist Das eigentlich, was ich thue? Und was will gerade ich damit?" — das ist die Frage der Wahrheit, welche bei unserer jetzigen Art Bildung nicht gelehrt und folglich nicht gefragt wird, für sie gibt es keine Zeit. Dagegen mit Kindern von Possen zu reden und nicht von der Wahrheit, mit Frauen, die später Mütter werden sollen, Artigkeiten zu reden und nicht von der Wahrheit, mit Jünglingen von ihrer Zukunft und ihrem Vergnügen zu reden und nicht von der Wahrheit, — dafür ist immer Zeit und Lust da! — Aber was sind auch siebenzig Jahre! — das läuft hin und ist bald zu Ende; es liegt so Wenig daran, dass die Welle wisse, wie und wohin sie laufe! Ja, es könnte Klugheit sein, es nicht zu wissen. — "Zugegeben: aber stolz ist es nicht, auch nicht einmal darnach zu fragen; unsere Bildung macht die Menschen nicht stolz". — Um so besser! — "Wirklich?"
    A related post: No Strength Without Truth 

    28 August 2017

    Negative Capability

    John Keats, letter to George and Thomas Keats (December 22, 1817), Letters of John Keats to his Family and Friends, ed. Sidney Colvin (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), p. 48:
    I had not a dispute, but a disquisition, with Dilke upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakspeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium* of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.
    *A footnote reads: "An admirable phrase! — if only penetralium were Latin."

    Medallion of Keats by Guiseppe Girometti, c. 1832

    25 August 2017

    The Role of the Artist

    Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 11:
    As we dwell here between two mysteries, of a soul within and an ordered Universe without, so among us are granted to dwell certain men of more delicate intellectual fibre than their fellows — men whose minds have, as it were, filaments to intercept, apprehend, conduct, translate home to us stray messages between these two mysteries, as modern telegraphy has learnt to search out, snatch, gather home human messages astray over waste waters of the Ocean.

    23 August 2017

    A Heartless Crew

    John Lavery, The Life of a Painter (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1940), pp. 30-31:
    I doubt if there is a more heartless crew than poets, painters, and composers. We are encouraged in this callousness by our lay brethren. I often wonder why. Robert Louis Stevenson said that we are merely on a par with the daughters of joy who are paid for doing what they enjoy most. Art is so sacred the love of it covers a multitude of sins, and so we excuse ourselves.
    A related post: The Sons of Joy

    John Lavery, Anna Pavlova (1911)

    22 August 2017

    Life Advice

    The first five of Thomas Davidson's twenty maxims, from William James' essay "Thomas Davidson: A Knight-Errant of the Intellectual Life," in Memories and Studies (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1911), pp. 92-93:
    1. Rely upon your own energies, and do not wait for, or depend on other people.

    2. Cling with all your might to your own highest ideals, and do not be led astray by such vulgar aims as wealth, position, popularity. Be yourself.

    3. Your worth consists in what you are, and not in what you have. What you are will show in what you do.

    4. Never fret, repine, or envy. Do not make yourself unhappy by comparing your circumstances with those of more fortunate people; but make the most of the opportunities you have. Employ profitably every moment.

    5. Associate with the noblest people you can find; read the best books; live with the mighty. But learn to be happy alone.

    18 August 2017

    A Grim and Ironic Pleasure

    John Williams, Stoner (London: Vintage, 2012), pp. 184-185:
    He had come to that moment in his age when there occurred to him, with increasing intensity, a question of such overwhelming simplicity that he had no means to face it. He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living; if it had ever been. It was a question, he suspected, that came to all men at one time or another; he wondered if it came to them with such impersonal force as it came to him. The question brought with it a sadness, but it was a general sadness which (he thought) had little to do with himself or with his particular fate; he was not even sure that the question sprang from the most immediate and obvious causes, from what his own life had become. It came, he believed, from the accretion of his years, from the density of accident and circumstance, and from what he had come to understand of them. He took a grim and ironic pleasure from the possibility that what little learning he had managed to acquire had led him to this knowledge: that in the long run all things, even the learning that let him know this, were futile and empty, and at last diminished into a nothingness they did not alter.
    A related post: Cheer Up Mate, It Might Never Happen

    17 August 2017

    Nothing More Valuable

    The first line of Pierre Fournier's Manuel typographique, Vol. 1 (Paris: Barbou, 1764-66), my translation:
    After the basic necessities of life, nothing is more valuable than books.
    Volume 1 and Volume 2 on Gallica.


    Note to self: Monotype's Fournier remains legible in small sizes.

    15 August 2017

    Something Solid, Something Definite

    Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door  (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), pp. 65-66:
    In reading [Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire] you don't want to be handicapped in any way. You want fair type, clear paper, and a light volume. You are not to read it lightly, but with some earnestness of purpose and keenness for knowledge, with a classical atlas at your elbow and a note-book hard by, taking easy stages and harking back every now and then to keep your grip of the past and to link it up with what follows. There are no thrills in it. You won't be kept out of your bed at night, nor will you forget your appointments during the day, but you will feel a certain sedate pleasure in the doing of it, and when it is done you will have gained something which you can never lose — something solid, something definite, something that will make you broader and deeper than before.
    A related post: Iggy Pop, Classicist

    The three volume Heritage Press edition of Decline and Fall  can be had for about $25.

    14 August 2017

    The Dead Are Such Good Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), p. 3:
    The dead are such good company that one may come to think too little of the living. It is a real and a pressing danger with many of us, that we should never find our own thoughts and our own souls, but be ever obsessed by the dead. Yet second-hand romance and second-hand emotion are surely better than the dull, soul-killing monotony which life brings to most of the human race. But best of all when the dead man's wisdom and the dead man's example give us guidance and strength in the living of our own strenuous days.

    10 August 2017

    Orderly Room, Orderly Mind

    John Williams, Stoner (London: Vintage, 2012), pp. 102-103:
    His study was on the first floor off the living room, with a high north window; in the daytime the room was softly illumined, and the wood paneling glowed with the richness of age. He found in the cellar a quantity of boards which, beneath the ravages of dirt and mold, matched the paneling of the room. He refinished these boards and constructed bookcases, so that he might be surrounded by his books; at a used furniture store he found some dilapidated chairs, a couch, and an ancient desk for which he paid a few dollars and which he spent many weeks repairing.

    As he worked on the room, and as it began slowly to take a shape, he realized that for many years, unknown to himself, he had had an image locked somewhere within him like a shamed secret, an image that was ostensibly of a place but which was actually of himself. So it was himself that he was attempting to define as he worked on his study. As he sanded the old boards for his bookcases, and saw the surface roughnesses disappear, the gray weathering flake away to the essential wood and finally to a rich purity of grain and texture — as he repaired his furniture and arranged it in the room, it was himself that he was slowly shaping, it was himself that he was putting into a kind of order, it was himself that he was making possible.
    Cf. Jordan Peterson on cleaning one's room

    9 August 2017

    The Urgency of Study

    John Williams, Stoner (London: Vintage, 2012), p. 25:
    Having come to his studies late, he felt the urgency of study. Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

    31 July 2017

    Plenty of Sleep

    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), p. 293:
    Plenty of Sleep. — What can we do to arouse  ourselves when we are weary and tired of our ego? Some recommend the gambling table, others Christianity, and others again electricity. But the best remedy, my dear hypochondriac, is, and always will be, plenty of sleep in both the literal and figurative sense of the word. Thus another morning will at length dawn upon us. The knack of worldly wisdom is to find the proper time for applying this remedy in both its forms.

    The original, from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, p. 262:
    Viel schlafen — Was thun, um sich anzuregen, wenn man müde und seiner selbst satt ist? Der Eine empfiehlt die Spielbank, der Andre das Christenthum, der Dritte die Electricität. Das Beste aber, mein lieber Melancholiker, ist und bleibt: viel schlafen, eigentlich und uneigentlich! So wird man auch seinen Morgen wieder haben! Das Kunststück der Lebensweisheit ist, den Schlaf jeder Art zur rechten Zeit einzuschieben wissen.

    A related post: Get Enough Sleep

    28 July 2017

    The Reading Preferences of Older Scholars

    George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), p. 243:
    The trade of the Italian dealers in manuscripts was not brought to an immediate close by the introduction of printing. The older scholars still preferred the manuscript form for their books, and found it difficult to divest themselves of the impression that the less costly printed volumes were suited only for the requirements of the vulgar herd. There are even, as Kirchhoff points out,* instances of scribes preparing their manuscripts from printed "copy," and there are examples of these manuscript copies of printed books being made with such literalness as to include the imprint of the printer.
    * There is a footnote which points to page 40 of Albrecht Kirchhoff's Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels im 17ten Jahrhundert (Berlin: 1849). I have not found a copy online. The source may be somewhere in the second volume of Kirchhoff's Beiträge zur Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung, 1853), but I'm too lazy to check.

    26 July 2017

    The Young Nietzsche, The Lonely Nietzsche

    Just adding a pair of books to the digital shelves:

    Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Der junge Nietzsche (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner, 1912), translated as The Young Nietzsche by Anthony Mario Ludovici (London: William Heinemann, 1912)

    Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Der einsame Nietzsche (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner, 1912), translated as The Lonely Nietzsche  by Paul V. Cohn (London: William Heinemann, 1912)


    24 July 2017

    What Should a Picture Say?

    G. F. Watts, "What Should a Picture Say?" quoted in William Loftus Hare, Watts (London: T. C. & E. C. Jack), pp. 35-36:
    Roughly speaking, a picture must be regarded in the same light as written words. It must speak to the beholder and tell him something. ... If a picture is a representation only, then regard it from that point of view only. If it treats of a historical event, consider whether it fairly tells its tale. Then there is another class of picture, that whose purpose is to convey suggestion and idea. You are not to look at that picture as an actual representation of facts, for it comes under the same category of dream visions, aspirations, and we have nothing very distinct except the sentiment. If the painting is bad — the writing, the language of art, it is a pity. The picture is then not so good as it should be, but the thought is there, and the thought is what the artist wanted to express, and it is or should be impressed on the spectator.

    Related posts:

    21 July 2017

    The Wallace Collection

    A couple paintings from the Wallace Collection:

    Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Bookworm or Le philosophe (c. 1846)

    Jules Dupré, Crossing the Bridge (1838)

    14 July 2017

    Is It Not Shameful?

    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 224-225:
    §211

    TO THOSE WHO DREAM OF IMMORTALITY —  So you desire the everlasting perpetuity of this beautiful consciousness of yourselves? Is it not shameful? Do you forget all those other things which would in their turn have to support you for all eternity, just as they have borne with you up to the present with more than Christian patience? Or do you think that you can inspire them with an eternally pleasant feeling towards yourself? A single immortal man on earth would imbue everyone around him with such a disgust for him that a general epidemic of murder and suicide would be brought about. And yet, ye petty dwellers on earth, with your narrow conceptions of a few thousand little minutes of time, ye would wish to be an everlasting burden on this everlasting universal existence! Could anything be more impertinent? After all, however, let us be indulgent towards a being of seventy years: he has not been able to exercise his imagination in conceiving his own "eternal tediousness" — he had not time enough for that!
    The original from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, p. 201:
    An die Träumer der Unsterblichkeit. — Diesem schönen Bewusstsein eurer selbst wünscht ihr also ewige Dauer? Ist das nicht schamlos? Denkt ihr denn nicht an alle andern Dinge, die euch dann in alle Ewigkeit zu ertragen hätten, wie sie euch bisher ertragen haben mit einer mehr als christlichen Geduld? Oder meint ihr, ihnen ein ewiges Wohlgefühl an euch geben zu können? Ein einziger unsterblicher Mensch auf der Erde wäre ja schon genug, um alles Andere, das noch da wäre, durch Ueberdruss an ihm in eine allgemeine Sterbe- und Aufhängewuth zu versetzen! Und ihr Erdenbewohner mit euren Begriffelchen von ein paar Tausend Zeitminütchen wollt dem ewigen allgemeinen Dasein ewig lästig fallen! Giebt es etwas Zudringlicheres! — Zuletzt: seien wir milde gegen ein Wesen von siebenzig Jahren! — es hat seine Phantasie im Ausmalen der eignen „ewigen Langenweile" nicht üben können, es fehlte ihm an der Zeit!
    A related post: Miserable Egotism 

    10 July 2017

    Lots of Books on My Shelves

    Arnold Bennett, "Books," Mental Efficiency (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), p. 103:
    I read what I feel inclined to read, and I am conscious of no duty to finish a book that I don't care to finish. I read in my leisure not from a sense of duty, not to improve myself, but solely because it gives me pleasure to read. Sometimes it takes me a month to get through one book. I expect my case is quite an average case. But am I going to fetter my buying to my reading? Not exactly! I want to have lots of books on my shelves because I know they are good, because I know they would amuse me, because I like to look at them, and because one day I might have a caprice to read them.
    A related post: Simple Pleasures

    5 July 2017

    Second-Hand Knowledge

    Carl Hilty, Happiness, tr. Francis Greenwood Peabody (New York: Macmillan, 1903), pp. 86-87:
    The reading of original sources ... gives one the advantage of being sure of his material, and of having his own judgement about it. There is this further advantage, that the original sources are in most cases not only much briefer, but much more interesting and much easier to remember than the books that have been written about them. Second-hand knowledge never gives the courage and self-confidence which one gets from acquaintance with original sources. One of the great mistakes of modern scholarship, as distinguished from that of the classic world, is — as Winkelmann has pointed out — that our learning in so many cases consists in knowing only what other people have known.
    This reminds me of the first Lord Selborne's advice to read the classics, rather than books about the classics.

    For the German see Hilty's Glück, Vol. 1 (Frauenfeld: Huber & Co., 1907), pp. 164-165. 

    30 June 2017

    Lament for a Nation

    George Grant, Lament for a Nation (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1994), p. 25:
    Growing up in Ontario, the generation of the 1920s took it for granted that they belonged to a nation. The character of the country was self-evident. To say it was British was not to deny it was North American. To be a Canadian was to be a unique species of North American. Such alternatives as F. H. Underhill’s - “Stop being British if you want to be a nationalist” - seemed obviously ridiculous. We were grounded in the wisdom of Sir John A. Macdonald, who saw plainly more than a hundred years ago that the only threat to nationalism was from the South, not from across the sea. To be a Canadian was to build, along with the French, a more ordered and stable society than the liberal experiment in the United States. Now that this hope has been extinguished, we are too old to be retrained by a new master. We find ourselves like fish left on the shores of a drying lake.

    Ibid., pp. 55-56:
    The crucial years were those of the early [nineteen] forties. The decisions of those years were made once and for all, and were not compatible with the continuance of a sovereign Canadian nation. Once it was decided that Canada was to be a branch-plant society of American capitalism, the issue of Canadian nationalism had been settled. The decision may or may not have been necessary; it may have been good or bad for Canada to be integrated into the international capitalism that has dominated the West since 1945. But certainly Canada could not exist as a nation when the chief end of the government’s policy was the quickest integration into that complex. The Liberal policy under [C. D.] Howe was integration as fast as possible and at all costs. No other consideration was allowed to stand in the way. The society produced by such policies may reap enormous benefits, but it will not be a nation. Its culture will become the empire’s to which it belongs. Branch-plant economies have branch-plant cultures.

    Ibid., pp. 82-83:
    [Early Canadian settlers felt] an inchoate desire to build, in these cold and forbidding regions, a society with a greater sense of order and restraint than freedom-loving republicanism would allow. It was no better defined than a kind of suspicion that we in Canada could be less lawless and have a greater sense of propriety than the United States. The inherited determination not to be Americans allowed these British people to come to a modus vivendi with the more defined desires of the French. English-speaking Canadians have been called a dull, stodgy, and indeed costive lot. In these dynamic days, such qualities are particularly unattractive to the chic. Yet our stodginess has made us a society of greater simplicity, formality, and perhaps even innocence than the people to the south. Whatever differences there were between the Anglicans and the Presbyterians, and however differently their theologians might interpret the doctrine of original sin, both communities believed that the good life made strict demands on self-restraint. Nothing was more alien to them than the “emancipation of the passions” desired in American liberalism. An ethic of self-restraint naturally looks with suspicion on utopian movements, which proceed from an ethic of freedom. The early leaders of British North America identified lack of public and personal restraint with the democratic Republic. Their conservatism was essentially the social doctrine that public order and tradition, in contrast to freedom and experiment, were central to the good life.

    Ibid., p. 106:
    Those who loved the older traditions of Canada may be allowed to lament what has been lost, even though they do not know whether or not that loss will lead to some greater political good. But lamentation falls easily into the vice of self-pity. To live with courage is a virtue, whatever one may think of the dominant assumptions of one’s age. Multitudes of human beings through the course of history have had to live when their only political allegiance was irretrievably lost. What was lost was often something far nobler than what Canadians have lost. Beyond courage, it is also possible to live in the ancient faith, which asserts that changes in the world, even if they be recognized more as a loss than a gain, take place within an eternal order that is not affected by their taking place. Whatever the difficulty of philosophy, the religious man has been told that process is not all. “Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore.”

    29 June 2017

    The Heaviest Burden

    Today's post on Anecdotal Evidence reminds me of a passage I often think about in Friedrich Nietzsche's The Joyful Wisdom (§ 341), from The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, tr. Thomas Common (New York: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 270-271:
    The Heaviest Burden — What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: "This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence — and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and thou with it, thou speck of dust!" — Wouldst thou not throw thyself down and gnash thy teeth, and curse the demon that so spake? Or hast thou once experienced a tremendous moment in which thou wouldst answer him: "Thou art a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!" If that thought acquired power over thee as thou art, it would transform thee, and perhaps crush thee; the question with regard to all and everything : "Dost thou want this once more, and also for innumerable times?" would lie as the heaviest burden upon thy activity! Or, how wouldst thou have to become favourably inclined to thyself and to life, so as to long for nothing more ardently than for this last eternal sanctioning and sealing?
    Die fröhliche Wissenschaft  is in Vol. 12 of the Musarion edition of Nietzsche's works but it is one of the volumes I have yet to find online. So for the original, see Vol. 5 of Alfred Kröner's edition (Stuttgart, 1921), pp. 265-266.

    A related post: Do You Like This Idea?

    28 June 2017

    The Libraries of Heaven

    Robert Leighton (1822-1869), "Books," quoted in The Book-Lover's Enchiridion, ed. Alexander Ireland (London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1884), p. 397:
    I cannot think the glorious world of mind,
    Embalm'd in books, which I can only see
    In patches, though I read my moments blind,
    Is to be lost to me.

    I have a thought that, as we live elsewhere,
    So will these dear creations of the brain;
    That what I lose unread, I'll find, and there
    Take up my joy again.

    O then the bliss of blisses, to be freed
    From all the wonts by which the world is driven;
    With liberty and endless time to read
    The libraries of Heaven!

    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.