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 the day this “temple of superstition” 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)

Related posts:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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.

24 May 2017

Ha'nacker's Down and England's Done

Hilaire Belloc, "Ha'nacker Mill," Stories, Essays and Poems (London: J. M. Dent, 1938):
Sally is gone that was so kindly,
Sally is gone from Ha'nacker Hill
And the Briar grows ever since then so blindly;
And ever since then the clapper is still,
And the sweeps have fallen from Ha'nacker Mill.

Ha'nacker Hill is in Desolation:
Ruin a-top and a field unploughed.
And Spirits that call on a fallen nation,
Spirits that loved her calling aloud:
Spirits abroad in a windy cloud.

Spirits that call and no one answers;
Ha'nacker's down and England's done.
Wind and Thistle for pipe and dancers,
And never a ploughman under the Sun:
Never a ploughman. Never a one.
Belloc can be heard singing this lament at the 1:43 mark on this Youtube video.

23 May 2017

None Would Live Past Years Again

John Dryden, Aureng-Zebe, IV. i:
When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat;
Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think to-morrow will repay:
To-morrow’s falser than the former day;
Lies worse, and, while it says, we shall be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possest.
Strange cozenage! None would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;
And, from the dregs of life, think to receive,
What the first sprightly running could not give.
I'm tired with waiting for this chemic gold,
Which fools us young, and beggars us when old.
Related posts:

The Nonesuch edition of Dryden's dramatic works (6 vols.) can be had for about $200  — further proof that the earthly paradise for bibliophiles is at hand.

22 May 2017

No Use Ploughing the Air

C. H. Spurgeon, "Things Not Worth Trying," John Ploughman's Talk (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1896), p. 93:
Long ago my experience taught me not to dispute with anybody about tastes and whims; one might as well argue about what you can see in the fire. It is of no use ploughing the air, or trying to convince a man against his will in matters of no consequence. It is useless to try to end a quarrel by getting angry over it; it is much the same as pouring oil on a fire to quench it, and blowing coals with the bellows to put them out. Some people like rows — I don't envy their choice; I'd rather walk ten miles to get out of a dispute than half-a-mile to get into one. I have often been told to be bold, and take the bull by the horns, but, as I rather think that the amusement is more pleasant than profitable, I shall leave it to those who are so cracked already that an ugly poke with a horn would not damage their skulls.

18 May 2017


Francis Meynell's answer when called before the draft board during the First World War, My Lives (London: Bodley Head, 1971), pp. 94-95:
I feel that I cannot surrender my conscience, my right of judgement, to anybody else's keeping. It is, in the common phrase, the soldier's duty 'to do and die and not to reason why'. Well, Sir, if I were a soldier and told 'to do' such a thing as sink the Lusitania or shoot so-called rebels in Ireland, or take part in the starvation of a population, or drop bombs on civilians, I should refuse.

16 May 2017

But You Do Not Know Greek

Sir Joseph Pope, The Day of Sir John Macdonald (Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Company, 1920), p. 116:
John's relations with Lord Dufferin had always been pleasant, though I think he considered the governor-general a bit of a humbug. Speaking to me one day of men's liking for flattery, Sir John said that 'almost anybody will take almost any amount of it,' but he thought that Lord Dufferin transgressed even those wide limits. 'He laid it on with a trowel.' Sir John added that Lord Dufferin was proud of his classical acquirements. He once delivered an address in Greek at the University of Toronto. A newspaper subsequently spoke of ' His Excellency's perfect command of the language.' 'I wonder who told the reporter that,' said a colleague to the chief. 'I did,' replied Sir John. 'But you do not know Greek.' 'No,' replied Sir John, 'but I know men.'
Pope is mistaken. Lord Dufferin delivered his Greek address at McGill University on February 13, 1878. The classics were not even on offer at the University of Toronto in the 1870s, the only courses of study at the time being Calvinist theology and livestock management.

13 May 2017

Don't Have Any Kids Yourself

Philip Larkin, "This Be the Verse," High Windows (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), p. 30:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

Photo from The Importance of Elsewhere: Philip Larkin's Photographs

A related post:

10 May 2017

With Apple-Butter on a Hay-Press

Interview VI with "Mr. G.", Extracts From an Investigation Into the Physical Properties of Books as They Are at Present Published (Boston: W. A. Dwiggins and L. B. Siegfried, 1919), pp. 15-16:
What's the use of talking about standards in connection with things like these? These are not books. They aren't fit to wad a gun with. I wouldn't have them in the house.... You can't hope to get anything like a decent book until you do away with the damnable cheap paper and the vile types. And then you will have to start in and teach the printer how to print. There aren't more than a half a dozen presses in the country that know how to print. Most printing looks like it had been done with apple-butter on a hay-press —

— What you say is unhappily true. What we are trying to find out are the causes of this state of things.

The causes are everywhere — all through the rattle-trap, cheap-jack, shoddy work that is being done in every kind of trade. Nobody cares for making decent things any more.

The only cure is to get back to decent standards of workmanship in everything again. But the case seems to me to be hopeless. I try to do printing up to a decent standard — and that is about all any of us can do. I don't believe you can hope to do much good through your societies and investigations. I believe in each one doing his own job in the best way he knows how. That's the only way you can raise the standard. It's the work you turn out that counts.

A related post: Shoddimites

8 May 2017

All the Meanings They Have Worn

Walter Raleigh (1861-1922), Style (London: Edward Arnold, 1897), pp. 25-26:
Words are piled on words, and bricks on bricks, but of the two you are invited to think words the more intractable. Truly, it was a man of letters who said it, avenging himself on his profession for the never-ending toil it imposed, by miscalling it, with grim pleasantry, the architecture of the nursery. Finite and quite rigid words are not, in any sense that holds good of bricks. They move and change, they wax and wane, they wither and burgeon; from age to age, from place to place, from mouth to mouth, they are never at a stay. They take on colour, intensity, and vivacity from the infection of neighbourhood; the same word is of several shapes and diverse imports in one and the same sentence; they depend on the building that they compose for the very chemistry of the stuff that composes them. The same epithet is used in the phrases "a fine day" and "fine irony," in "fair trade" and "a fair goddess." Were different symbols to be invented for these sundry meanings the art of literature would perish. For words carry with them all the meanings they have worn, and the writer shall be judged by those that he selects for prominence in the train of his thought. A slight technical implication, a faint tinge of archaism, in the common turn of speech that you employ, and in a moment you have shaken off the mob that scours the rutted highway, and are addressing a select audience of ticket-holders with closed doors. A single natural phrase of peasant speech, a direct physical sense given to a word that genteel parlance authorises readily enough in its metaphorical sense, and at a touch you have blown the roof off the drawing-room of the villa, and have set its obscure inhabitants wriggling in the unaccustomed sun. In choosing a sense for your words you choose also an audience for them.

5 May 2017

He Has Ransacked a Thousand Minds

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), "On the Conduct of the Understanding," Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1855), p. 95:
There are instances to the contrary; but, generally speaking, the life of all truly great men has been a life of intense and incessant labour. They have commonly passed the first half of life in the gross darkness of indigent humility, — overlooked, mistaken, contemned, by weaker men, — thinking while others slept, reading while others rioted, feeling something within them that told them they should not always be kept down among the dregs of the world; and then, when their time was come, and some little accident has given them their first occasion, they have burst out into the light and glory of public life, rich with the spoils of time, and mighty in all the labours and struggles of the mind. Then do the multitude cry out "a miracle of genius!" Yes, he is a miracle of genius, because he is a miracle of labour; because instead of trusting to the resources of his own single mind, he has ransacked a thousand minds; because he makes use of the accumulated wisdom of ages, and takes as his point of departure the very last line and boundary to which science has advanced; because it has ever been the object of his life to assist every intellectual gift of nature, however munificent, and however splendid, with every resource that art could suggest, and every attention diligence could bestow.
A portion of this quote set out in Henry Lewis Johnson's Historic Design in Printing (Boston: The Graphic Arts Company, 1923), p. 82:

4 May 2017


Sir Thomas Browne, "Christian Morals," Religio Medici and Other Essays  (Manchester: Sherratt and Hughes, 1902), pp. 152-153:
Bring candid eyes unto the perusal of men's works, and let not Zoilism or detraction blast well-intended labours. He that endureth no faults in men's writings must only read his own, wherein, for the most part, all appeareth white. Quotation mistakes, inadvertency, expedition, and human lapses, may make not only moles but warts in learned authors; who, notwithstanding, being judged by the capital matter, admit not of disparagement. I should unwillingly affirm that Cicero was but slightly versed in Homer, because in his work, De Gloria, he ascribed those verses unto Ajax, which were delivered by Hector. What if Plautus, in the acount of Hercules, mistaketh nativity for conception? Who would have mean thoughts of Apollinaris Sidonius, who seems to mistake the river Tigris for Euphrates; and, though a good historian and learned bishop of Auvergne had the misfortune to be out in the story of David, making mention of him when the ark was sent back by the Philistines upon a cart; which was before his time? Though I have no great opinion of Machiavel's learning, yet I shall not presently say that he was but a novice in Roman history, because he was mistaken in placing Commodus after the Emperor Severus. Capital truths are to be narrowly eyed; collateral lapses and circumstantial deliveries not to be too strictly sifted. And if the substantial subject be well forged out, we need not examine the sparks which irregularly fly from it.

2 May 2017

Pull Your Finger Out

Sir Thomas Browne, "Christian Morals," Religio Medici and Other Essays  (Manchester: Sherratt and Hughes, 1902), pp. 147-148:
Since thou hast an alarum in thy breast, which tells thee thou hast a living spirit in thee above two thousand times in an hour; dull not away thy days in slothful supinity and the tediousness of doing nothing. To strenuous minds there is an inquietude in over quietness, and no laboriousness in labour; and to tread a mile after the slow pace of a snail, or the heavy measures of the lazy of Brazilia, were a most tiring penance, and worse than a race of some furlongs at the Olympicks. The rapid courses of the heavenly bodies are rather imitable by our thoughts, than our corporeal motions; yet the solemn motions of our lives amount unto a greater measure than is commonly apprehended. Some few men have surrounded the globe of the earth; yet many in the set locomotions and movements of their days have measured the circuit of it, and twenty thousand miles have been exceeded by them.

26 April 2017

Dirty Hippies

Camille Paglia, "Ninnies, Pedants, Tyrants and Other Academics," The New York Times (May 5, 1991):
The 60's attempted a return to nature that ended in disaster. The gentle nude bathing and playful sliding in the mud at Woodstock were a short-lived Rousseauistic dream. My generation, inspired by the Dionysian titanism of rock, attempted something more radical than anything since the French Revolution. We asked: why should I obey this law? And: why shouldn't I act on every sexual impulse? The result was a descent into barbarism.

25 April 2017

Indirect Strategies

Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, Willpower (London: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 28:
Emotional control is uniquely difficult because you generally can’t alter your mood by an act of will. You can change what you think about or how you behave, but you can’t force yourself to be happy. You can treat your in-laws politely, but you can’t make yourself rejoice over their month-long visit. To ward off sadness and anger, people use indirect strategies, like trying to distract themselves with other thoughts, or working out at the gym, or meditating. They lose themselves in TV shows and treat themselves to chocolate binges and shopping sprees. Or they get drunk.