19 July 2018

Something Definite

Willibrord Verkade, Yesterdays of an Artist-Monk, tr. John Stoddard (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1930), p. 66:
Sometimes the poet Paul Verlaine likewise made his appearance there [at the Café Voltaire]. He was a tall figure, with a neglected exterior. His head resembled that of a Silenus. He usually fell into a controversy almost immediately with some exponent of symbolism, for this designation he could not endure. It was to him too vague and misty. “What then does it really mean, this symbolism, symbolism?” one heard him ask over and over again. “Nothing, absolutely nothing,” he would continue; “now I am a degenerate, and that is at least something definite, I am a degenerate.” People let him talk. The poor man had at that time fallen already very low, even mentally.

Eugène Carrière, Paul Verlaine (1891)

13 July 2018

Stoicism on the Subway

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.27, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 36:
Do you get angry at rank armpits? or at foul breath? What would be the good? Mouth, armpits are what they are, and being so, the given effluvia must result. — 'Yes, but nature has given man reason, man can comprehend and understand what offends!' — 'Very good! Ergo you too have reason; use your moral reason to move his; show him his error, admonish him. If he attends, you will amend him; no need for anger — you are not a ranter, or a whore.'

10 July 2018


Robert Louis Stevenson, "Forest Notes," Essays of Travel (London: Chatto & Windus, 1905), pp. 170-171:
It is the great moral spa; this forest without a fountain is itself the great fountain of Juventius.  It is the best place in the world to bring an old sorrow that has been a long while your friend and enemy; and if, like Béranger’s your gaiety has run away from home and left open the door for sorrow to come in, of all covers in Europe, it is here you may expect to find the truant hid.  With every hour you change.  The air penetrates through your clothes, and nestles to your living body.  You love exercise and slumber, long fasting and full meals.  You forget all your scruples and live a while in peace and freedom, and for the moment only.  For here, all is absent that can stimulate to moral feeling.  Such people as you see may be old, or toil-worn, or sorry; but you see them framed in the forest, like figures on a painted canvas; and for you, they are not people in any living and kindly sense.  You forget the grim contrariety of interests.  You forget the narrow lane where all men jostle together in unchivalrous contention, and the kennel, deep and unclean, that gapes on either hand for the defeated.  Life is simple enough, it seems, and the very idea of sacrifice becomes like a mad fancy out of a last night’s dream.

Théodore Rousseau, A Tree in Fontainebleau Forest (c. 1840)

8 July 2018

The Only Real Misfortune

Will H. Low, A Chronicle of Friendships (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908), p. 95:
Happy the land that knows that art is long, and happy the man who, like Jean-François Millet, lives his life in full acceptance of this truth, and, with the unceasing industry of the coral-insect, adds day by day the essential quota to his life fabric. Another great Frenchman, the sculptor Rude, has said that the only real misfortune that can befall an artist is interruption to his work, "La grande chose pour un artiste — c'est de faire."
Jean-François Millet, Autoportrait (c. 1840)

2 July 2018

Père Tanguy

Willibrord Verkade, Yesterdays of an Artist-Monk, tr. John Stoddard (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1930), p. 80-81:
There are people, whom one has known only a short time, yet whom one loves through an entire lifetime; people, whose venerable forms continually rise in memory before us, surrounded by an aureole of admiration. Such a one was “Father Tanguy.” Father Tanguy had a small shop in the Rue Clauzel, where he sold artists’ materials, principally colours. In addition to this, he carried on a small art business. There were no pictures of recognized artists to be found in his shop, but for the most part only those before which, at the expositions, people stand laughing boisterously, or pass by with scorn and ridicule. They were such works as those of the great impressionists Cezanne, Pissaro, Monet, van Gogh and others, of whom Father Tanguy was the humble friend. With what love and reverence he spoke of them, especially of Pissaro and of van Gogh, “the most charitable man he had ever known.” How he loved the paintings which he was nevertheless obliged to sell. How often he was inconsolable, if again “such a beautiful specimen” had left his shop, and almost always at a ridiculously cheap price. He would have liked best to have acquired it himself, in order to enjoy it always. Tanguy was, however, poor, like the great painters, whose works he loved. And even when some of these artists subsequently became famous and obtained high prices for their productions, Tanguy remained poor, for then their paintings fell into the hands of the richer art-dealers. Tanguy was also our friend, the friend of the nabis, looked after their colours and frames, and exhibited their first works. This noble man has always remained dear to me. At his death he left a collection of paintings worth certainly five thousand pounds, but he would never have sold them for that price, unless compelled to do so.

Émile Bernard, Père Tanguy (1887)

28 June 2018

A Very Different Life

Leslie Frost, Fighting Men (Toronto: Clarke Irwin & Co. Ltd., 1967), p. 10:
People nowadays sometimes look back nostalgically to the good old pre-war days [i.e., before the First World War] and they remember a very different life. The welfare state was not even contemplated. The Orillia Town Council had in its organization a Charity Committee which dispensed a few dollars a year to those unfortunates who were in dire need, in most cases through no fault of their own. There were no mother’s allowances. Pensions for the aged, disabled, the blind, and assistance for the afflicted were a generation away. Children looked after their parents and their disabled ones. The effects of sickness could be, and were, devastating. Still, people were confident. They were self-reliant. They had strong moorings in their religious faiths and beliefs. The magnificence of Europe was not theirs and they had little understanding of it all. Canada was new. Its people had come up the hard way. Most of their fathers and grandfathers had come from the old land because of sheer necessity. They had successfully created a new way of life in Upper Canada and Ontario and they were satisfied with it.

"Old Man Ontario" as a young officer

27 June 2018

Room with a View

A lithograph by Franz Xaver Hoch, from Hochland; Ein Ausflug ins Land der Berge voll Alpenzauber und Höhenluft (München: Verlag des deutschen Spielmanns, 1903):

Franz Xaver Hoch, Hoch Fensterbild (1903)

According to the German Wikipedia entry, Hoch was associated with Die Scholle. He served with the Landsturm-Infanterie-Bataillon Mindelheim (2. Kompanie) and died at Châtas on 18 June, 1916.

25 June 2018

Football and Beer

George Orwell, 1984, in The Penguin Complete Novels of George Orwell (London: Penguin, 1976), pp. 784-785:
In reality very little was known about the proles. It was not necessary to know much. So long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern. They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming-period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty, they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.

20 June 2018

The Demon Titivillus

Marc Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique (New York: Dover Publications, 1989), pp. 17-18 (footnotes omitted):
Titivillus was born in the minds of medieval monks  created in jest to make a serious point. The repetitiveness of monastic life took its toll. Monks would occasionally cease to pay precise attention and words were mutilated, misspelled, and misplaced. Monks had to be reminded of the sin of inattentiveness. The earliest recorded mention of Titivillus by name appeared c. 1285 in John of Wales' Tractatus de Penitentia. And the comment about him was repeated early in the next century when, in a sermon, Petrus de Palude, Patriarch of Jerusalem, commented, “Fragmina psalmorum / Titivillus colligit horum" which, loosely translated. says that Titivillus collects bits of the psalms. Slipping about unseen he listened for each and every verbal atrocity that occurred in the services. But the monks deplored copying and writing errors as much as those in reading and singing. While no record of his interest in scribal errors was found until the 15th century, it is logical to assume that he may have followed the monks from services to see what was amiss in the scriptorium.

What Titivillus did when he heard or saw an error gave him demonic status. John of Wales' early description added another fact corroborated in several manuscripts (among them London, British Museum, Arundel 506, folio 46): "Quacque die mille / vicibus sarcinat ille." Titivillus, it explained, was required each day to find enough errors to fill his sack a thousand times. And these he hauled to the Devil below where each sin was duly recorded in a book against the name of the monk who had committed it, there to be read out on the Day of Judgment.

Titivillus keeping a watchful eye

A related post: It Makes the Kidneys Ache

19 June 2018

A Refusal to Live

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
Interviewer's remark: When you think of the pictures of Van Gogh, even the most melancholy are full of energy and force and emotion.

Yes, even desolation is fully experienced and even what is lost is fully expressed, in contrast to this [refusal to participate fully in life]. Sometimes, one thinks how much more alive such people would be if they suffered! If they can't be happy, let them at least be unhappy, really unhappy for once, and then they would become human. But many pueri aeterni cannot even be quite unhappy! They have not even the generosity and the courage to expose themselves to a situation which could make them unhappy. Already, like cowards, they build bridges by which they can escape — they anticipate the disappointment in order not to suffer the blow, and that is a refusal to live.

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (1890)

A related post: The Religion of Smug Ease

13 June 2018

Father's Day

Friedrich Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (§ 318), from Vol. VIII of the Musarion edition (München: Musarion Verlag, 1920), p. 288 (my translation):
Correcting Nature — If you do not have a good father, then you should acquire one for yourself.

Die Natur corrigiren — Wenn man keinen guten Vater hat, so soll man sich einen anschaffen.

Josef Thorak, Friedrich Nietzsche (1944)

10 June 2018

Once Upon a Time

Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002), p. 5:
The utilitarian or servile arts enable one to be a servant — of another person, of the state, of a corporation, or of a business — and to earn a living. The liberal arts, in contrast, teach one how to live; they train the faculties and bring them to perfection; they enable a person to rise above his material environment to live an intellectual, a rational, and therefore a free life in gaining truth.
Edward Irvine Halliday, Worcester College Room (1952)

Not unrelated: They Are Scum

6 June 2018

Pluralistic Ignorance

Professor Dan Ariely on how he teaches his students about pluralistic ignorance, from the 33m55s mark in his interview on The Knowledge Project podcast:
I start the class by taking a paragraph from some post-modern literature text generator, something crazy, you know, so you don't understand what's going on — every sentence looks like it's constructed appropriately but there's no flow, there's Foucault and Derrida from time to time, and I just add some words about economics and behavioural economics, and Becker... It's the first class, people sit in, [there are] 500 students, and I say,"Let me start by explaining to you what behavioural economics is." And I just read this nonsense for five minutes. Then I stop and ask, "Why didn't you stop me? How many of you would have stopped me if there was only one person in the room?"
A related post: A Fool's Trick

4 June 2018

How to Gain Time and Tranquility

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.24, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 36:
"Do few things, if you would have cheer." A better rule methinks is to do only things necessary, things which in a social being reason dictates, and as it dictates. For this brings the cheer that comes of doing a few things, and doing them well. Most of the things we say or do are not necessary; get rid of them, and you will gain time and tranquility. Thus in every case a man should ask himself, Is this one of the things not necessary? and we ought to get rid not only  of actions, that are not necessary, but likewise of impressions; then superfluous actions will  not follow in their train.

30 May 2018

Uprooted, Anonymous, and Pushed About

James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2015), p. 51:
I sometimes think we [shepherds from the Lake District] are so independently minded because we have seen just enough of the wider world to know we like our own old ways and independence best. My grandfather went as far afield as Paris for a trip to an agricultural fair once. He knew what cities had to offer, but also had a sense that they would leave you uprooted, anonymous, and pushed about by the world you lived in, rather than having some freedom and control. The potential wealth on offer counted for little or nothing set against the sense of belonging and purpose that existed at home.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

25 May 2018

Worth the While of Every Lover of Truth

John Smith Gilderdale, Disciplina Rediviva (London: Bell and Daldy, 1856), pp. 51-52:
Were it indeed only for its use in enabling us to detect the fallacies which may arise out of a singularity of idiom, in the case of a person knowing one language only, the value of this power of translating one language into another would make it worth the while of every lover of truth to retain his knowledge of Latin and Greek. In the act of passing out of one language into another the idea appears for a moment in its naked form, stripped of the accidental gloss of idiom. We see what is of the essence of the idea and what not — the thing in itself, not merely what it was to the Greek or to the Roman, at the same time that this very exhibition of its several phases, under the aspect of varied national influence, is a most valuable commentary on the res itself, of which those idiomata are but the versions.

Besides this, are there not some thoughts which seem so connected in their nature with the mind that gave them birth, that they refuse to be clothed in the new languages of the Western world?

The connection of the dead and the living languages is seen only by those who have carried a continued knowledge of the one into the study of the other. The ease with which the latter are acquired on the strength of a knowledge of their archetypes, along with the philological value of a classical illustration, goes a great way towards persuading most men of the indirect advantage of a life-long familiarity with Greek and Latin.

24 May 2018

Read Much, Reflected Little

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 154:
It is easy to read, but hard to think. Without thinking, we cannot make the sentiments of others our own. Thinking alone adopts them into our family. It is my misfortune, that I have read much, but have reflected little. Let me reverse this order. I prefer strength of impression to superficial knowledge, however extensive.

17 May 2018

The Statistical Mood

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
You do not realize what it does to you when you read statistics. It is a completely destructive poison, and what is worse is that it is not true; it is a falsified image of reality. If we begin to think statistically, we begin to think against our own uniqueness. It is not only thinking, but also a way of feeling. If you go up and down the Bahnhofstrasse, you see all those stupid faces and then look into a window yourself and say that you look just as stupid as the others, if not worse! And then comes the thought that if an atom bomb destroyed all that, who would regret it? Thank God, those lives have come to an end, including my own! In the statistical mood, one is overwhelmed by the ordinariness of life.

14 May 2018

Favere Lingua

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Aphorism XXXIII," Aids to Reflection (London: William Pickering, 1839), p. 79:
It is characteristic of the Roman dignity and sobriety, that, in the Latin, to favour with the tongue (favere lingua) means to be silent. We say, Hold your tongue! as if it were an injunction, that could not be carried into effect but by manual force, or the pincers of the forefinger and thumb! And verily — I blush to say it — it is not Women and Frenchmen only that would rather have their tongues bitten than bitted, and feel their souls in a strait-waistcoat, when they are obliged to remain silent.

7 May 2018

A Slight Sense of Nausea

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Books Unread," Part of a Man's Life (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906), pp. 163-164:
Books which we have first read in odd places always retain their charm, whether read or neglected. Thus Hazlitt always remembered that it was on the 10th of April, 1798, that he "sat down to a volume of the 'New Éloise' at the Inn at Llangollen over a bottle of sherry and a cold chicken." In the same way I remember how Professor Longfellow in college recommended to us, for forming a good French style, to read Balzac's "Peau de Chagrin;" and yet it was a dozen years later before I found it in a country inn, on a lecture trip, and sat up half the night to read it. It may be, on the other hand, that such haphazard meetings with books sometimes present them under conditions hopelessly unfavorable, as when I encountered Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" for the first time on my first voyage in an Azorian barque; and it inspires to this day a slight sense of nausea, which it might, after all, have inspired equally on land.

3 May 2018

The Blind Fight the Blind

Charles Hamilton Sorley, "To Germany," The Muse in Arms, ed. E. B. Osborne (London: John Murray, 1917), p. 149:
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But, gropers both through fields of thought confined,
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other's truer form,
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm,
We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But, until peace, the storm,
The darkness, and the thunder and the rain.

A Canadian lights a German's cigarette at Passchendaele, November 1917

30 April 2018

Outdoor Erections

Bernard E. Jones, The Practical Woodworker, Vol. II (London: The Waverley Book Company Ltd., 1920), pp. 417-418:

It could be exciting to build a bicycle shed...

A related post: Portable Cold Frame

27 April 2018

Don't Go Back

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), p. 97:
As a rule, it is better to revisit only in imagination the places which have greatly charmed us, or which, in the retrospect, seem to have done so. Seem to have charmed us, I say; for the memory we form, after a certain lapse of time, of places where we lingered, often bears but a faint resemblance to the impression received at the time; what in truth may have been very moderate enjoyment, or enjoyment greatly disturbed by inner or outer circumstances, shows in the distance as a keen delight, or as deep, still happiness. On the other hand, if memory creates no illusion, and the name of a certain place is associated with one of the golden moments of life, it were rash to hope that another visit would repeat the experience of a bygone day.
Not unrelated: Let the Past Remain in Peace

24 April 2018

Mere Treasures of Words

Isaac Watts, Improvement of the Mind (New York : A. S. Barnes & Co., 1849), p. 73:
When you have learned one or many languages ever so perfectly, take heed of priding yourself in these acquisitions: they are but mere treasures of words, or instruments of true and solid knowledge, and whose chief design is to lead us into an acquaintance with things, or to enable us the more easily to convey those ideas or that knowledge to others. An acquaintance with the various tongues is nothing else but a relief against the mischief which the building of Babel introduced: and were I master of as many languages as were spoken at Babel, I should make but a poor pretense to true learning or knowledge, if I had not clear and distinct ideas, and useful notions in my head under the words which my tongue could pronounce. Yet so unhappy a thing is human nature, that this sort of knowledge of sounds and syllables is ready to puff up the mind with vanity, more than the most valuable and solid improvements of it. The pride of a grammarian, or a critic, generally exceeds that of a philosopher.

20 April 2018

A Troublesome Companion

Maurice Rollinat, Ruminations: prose d'un solitaire (Paris: Eugène Fasquelle, 1904), pp. 20-21 (my translation):
Hate is a troublesome companion who awakens in solitude, gives soliloquies in complete silence, and is never more agitated than when you are in peaceful places.

La haine est une inquiétante compagne qui se réveille dans la solitude, soliloque dans le  plein silence, n'est jamais plus agitée que dans les endroits paisibles.

Maurice Rollinat, photographed by Félix Nadar

18 April 2018


Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 8:
In general, where there is sentimentality there is also a certain amount of brutality. Göring was a wonderful example, for without a qualm he could sign the death sentence for three hundred people, but if one of his birds died, then that fat old man would cry. He was a classic example! Cold brutality is very often covered up by sentimentality.

16 April 2018

Why Soldiers Read

Edward Earle Purinton, Personal Efficiency in Business (New York: Robert M. McBride, 1920), pp. 258-261:
When a man is training to meet death, literary tastes undergo transformation; he ceases to care for the latest news of the sporting circle or the social set or the political grab-bag or the local gossip manufacturers; he has no time to waste on the petty, foul, superficial or trite in literature. But death is no more serious than life, and a man training to meet life should learn to read as wisely and effectively as a soldier. From the statements of military authorities and the records of camp and field librarians we have noted a few of the main reasons and purposes that American soldiers have in mind when they take up a certain book or periodical. They do not always analyze their own mental process, but the results of their instinctive choice of books reveal their subconscious choice, whether analyzed or not.
They read to prepare themselves for new tasks, opportunities and responsibilities.

They read to learn the trend of current events in their line of action the world over.

They read to be able to forecast probabilities and rise to the top in emergencies.

They read to broaden their minds and equip themselves with knowledge that was lacking in their early education.

They read to take their minds off the dangers and difficulties of their work.

They read to soften the pain of wounds and the memory of scars.

They read to conquer loneliness by the mental and moral companionship a good book affords.

They read to shorten the suspense of waiting for only God knows what to happen to them.

They read to overcome physical fatigue with mental refreshment.

They read to understand and remember more clearly what they are fighting for.

They read to think harder and thus to fight better.

They read to get in line for a commission and other chances for promotion.

They read to avoid wasting time and strength in dangerous or vicious amusements.

They read to improve themselves in matters of dress, morals and military conduct.

They read to learn the exact truth in case of argument.

They read to help solve personal and professional problems of all kinds.

They read to break up the depressing monotony of mechanical routine.

They read to develop the free imagination that must offset compulsory action.

They read to learn how to handle their minds and bodies more effectively.

They read to renew their courage, faith, optimism, endurance.

They read to grasp more firmly the basic truths of life and to ground themselves in principles on which they stand immovable.

13 April 2018

A Vaudeville of Despair

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1973), p. 149:
The uncontrolled emotional outpouring, the dazed masses standing huddled in the city squares sometimes for days on end, grown people groveling hysterically and tearing at themselves, being trampled in the surge toward the coffin or funeral pyre — how to make sense out of such a massive, neurotic "vaudeville of despair"? In one way only: it shows a profound state of shock at losing one's bulwark against death. The people apprehend, at some dumb level of their personality: "Our locus of power to control life and death can himself die; therefore our own immortality is in doubt." All the tears and all the tearing is after all for oneself, not for the passing of a great soul but for one's own imminent passing.

11 April 2018


Ernst Jünger, "Mut," in Sämtliche Werke, Vol. 7 (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1980), p. 52 (my translation):
Courage is the wind that drives ships to far shores, the key to all treasures, the hammer that forges great empires, and the shield without which no culture survives. Courage is the individual's commitment to inevitable consequences, the hurtling of an idea against matter without regard for the outcome. Courage is allowing yourself to be nailed to the cross, alone, for your cause. Courage is to affirm, in the final nervous spasm and with your dying breath, the principles for which you stood and fell. To hell with an age that wants to take courage and men from us!

Everyone has experienced this feeling too, no matter how dull he may be. There is something about courage that cannot be resisted, something which jumps from one heart to other hearts at the moment of action. Unless one's character is utterly depraved and ignoble, the feeling for the heroic is not so easy to escape. Struggle is certainly sanctified by its cause; and a cause is even more sanctified by struggle. How else could you respect an enemy? Only the brave can fully understand this.

Struggle is always a holy thing, God's judgement over two ideas. It is up to us to support our cause with greater and greater determination, and so to fight is our ultimate reason and what we have fought for and won is our only true possession. No fruit will ripen for us unless it has endured storms of iron, and the best and the most beautiful also demand that they be won through earnest struggle.
Rudolf Schlichter, Ernst Jünger (c. 1929)
Image via Verlag Antaios

9 April 2018

The Difference Between Civilized and Savage Man

A. Hyatt Verrill, Knots, Splices and Rope Work (New York: Norman W. Henley Pub. Co., 1912), p. 8:
Few realize the importance that knots and cordage have played in the world's history, but if it had not been for these simple and every-day things, which as a rule are given far too little consideration, the human race could never have developed beyond savages. Indeed, I am not sure but it would be safe to state that the real difference between civilized and savage man consists largely in the knowledge of knots and rope work. No cloth could be woven, no net or seine knitted, no bow strung and no craft sailed on lake or sea without numerous knots and proper lines or ropes; and Columbus himself would have been far more handicapped without knots than without a compass. 

5 April 2018

Bitter Recollections

Charles Wagner, The Better Way, tr. Mary Louise Hendee (Toronto: William Briggs, 1903), p. 50:
Do not condemn yourself to bitter recollections. Why so honor the offence as to write it on the tablets of your memory? Is your heart so large that you can afford to give so much place to resentment? What a pity that the little man saves from the wreck of forgetfulness should consist first of all in the wrongs which have been done him! There are deeds that are unpardonable; people who merit neither excuse, nor good-will, nor forbearance. Is this sufficient reason for remembering them forever? Let the injury fall to the ground and do not stoop to recover it. Stoop rather to pick the flower, however humble, that smiles up at you here in this valley.
For the original, see  L'ami: dialogues intérieurs (Paris: Fischbacher, 1902), p. 66.

Related posts:

2 April 2018

Paul Cézanne's Prayer

Henri de Régnier, "La Prière de Paul Cézanne," Vestigia Flammae (Paris: Mercure de France, 1921), pp. 223-224 (my translation):
Lord of light, air, and cloud,
You to Whom I have called so often,
Look on the hard and weary features of my poor face,
The mouth beneath the beard and the stubborn forehead;

Consider the eyes which have gazed on things
With such determination to know the truth of them,
And see these hands, gnarled and weakened
By the painful effort of their sincerity;

And now, Lord, in Your mercy,
Hear me and let me be, tomorrow, by Your grace,
The faithful servant whom the master grants
A simple tomb in a corner of the garden.

I have spent long days in honest labour,
And I made the most of the little I received.
No deceit ever soiled my palette,
And my eyes never betrayed what they saw.

Others sought tumult and glory,
But I only wanted the humble laurel
Whose leaves, almost black, grow somberly
At the doorstep of the true artist and good workman.

And this is why, Lord, having lived my life,
To the moment of my death, in the place were I was born,
I offer You these bright eyes in a poor face,
And this forehead, and these hands, and this willful stare.

Accept them, and take also these round apples,
These grapes, and these fruits which I painted as best as I was able,
For to me their contour was the shape of the world
And all eternal light is in them.

Paul Cézanne, Nature morte au crâne (c. 1897)

Seigneur de la clarté, de l’air et du nuage,
Toi vers qui si souvent mon appel s’est tourné,
Vois les traits durs et las de mon pauvre visage,
Sa bouche sous la barbe et son front obstiné ;

Considère ces yeux qui fixèrent les choses
Avec un tel désir de voir leur vérité
Et regarde ces mains noueuses, et moroses
Du douloureux effort de leur sincérité ;

Et maintenant, Seigneur, en ta miséricorde,
Ecoute et que je sois, par ta grâce, demain,
Le serviteur fidèle à qui le maître accorde
Une tombe rustique en un coin du jardin.

J’ai passé de longs jours en un labeur honnête
Et j’ai tiré parti du peu que j’ai reçu,
Nulle fraude jamais n’a souillé ma palette
Et mes yeux n’ont jamais menti ce qu’ils ont vu ;

D’autres ont recherché le tumulte et la gloire,
Mais moi je n’ai voulu que cet humble laurier
Qui pousse sobrement sa feuille presque noire
Au seuil du probe artiste et du bon ouvrier,

Et c’est pourquoi, Seigneur, ayant vécu mon âge,
Au moment de mourir aux lieux où je suis né,
Je t’offre ces yeux clairs en un pauvre visage
Et ce front et ces mains et cet œil obstiné.

Accepte-les et prends aussi ces pommes rondes,
Ces grappes et ces fruits que j’ai peints de mon mieux,
Car leur contour pour moi fut la forme du monde
Et toute la lumière éternelle est en eux.

29 March 2018

That Roving Habit

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 155:
There are periods, when the mind is indisposed to serious study, when it sympathizes with a suffering body, when its tone is destroyed, and its powers require relaxation. But we should distinguish natural infirmity from that indolence which grows by indulgence, and which one vigorous exertion would drive away. It is desirable, and I think it possible, to acquire a conquest over the former weaknesses of nature. May we not form a habit of attention which pain itself cannot distract? Do I not too often apologize for indolence, by attributing it to bodily indisposition? Let me check that roving habit, which I have indulged, of reading a thousand trifles, — a habit by which the tone of the mind is destroyed, until we turn with loathing from wholesome studies. Regularity and order are essential; and when I have formed a plan, let me submit to many inconveniences rather than swerve from it.

26 March 2018

An Error on the Right Hand

John Denham (1615-1669) in the preface to his translation of The Destruction of Troy, from The Works of the British Poets, ed. Robert Anderson, Vol. V (London: John & Arthur Arch, 1795), pp. 693-694:
I conceive it is a vulgar error in translating poets, to affect being fidus interpres; let that care be with them who deal in matters of fact, or matters of faith: but whosoever aims at it in poetry, as he attempts what is not required, so he shall never perform what he attempts; for it is not his business alone to translate language into language, but poesy into poesy; and poesy is of so subtle a spirit, that in the pouring out of one language into another, it will all evaporate; and if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum, there being certain graces and happinesses peculiar to every language, which gives life and energy to the words; and whosoever offers at verbal translation, shall have the misfortune of that young traveller, who lost his own language abroad, and brought home no other instead of it: for the grace of the Latin will be lost by being turned into English words; and the grace of the English, by being turned into the Latin phrase. And as speech is the apparel of our thoughts, so are there certain garbs and modes of speaking, which vary with the times; the fashion of our clothes being not more subject to alteration, than that of our speech: and this I think Tacitus means, by that which he calls sermonem temporis istius auribus accommodatum; the delight of change being as due to the curiosity of the ear, as of the eye; and therefore if Virgil must needs speak English, it were fit he should speak not only as a man of this Nation, but as a man of this age; and if this disguise I have put upon him (I wish I could give it a better name) sit not naturally and easily on so grave a person, yet it may become him better than that fools-coat wherein the French and Italian have of late presented him; at least, I hope, it will not make him appear deformed, by making any part enormously bigger or less than the life; (I having made it my principal care to follow him, as he made it his to follow Nature in all his proportions) neither have I any where offered such violence to his sense, as to make it seem mine, and not his. Where my expressions are not so full as his, either our language, or my art were defective (but I rather suspect myself;) but where mine are fuller than his, they are but the impressions which the often reading of him, hath left upon my thoughts; so that if they are not his own conceptions, they are at least the results of them; and if (being conscious of making him speak worse than he did almost in every line) I err in endeavouring sometimes to make him speak better, I hope it will be judged an error on the right hand, and such an one as may deserve pardon, if not imitation.
A related post: Rather Impressionist Than Pre-Raphaelite

20 March 2018

The Aim of Literary Study

Arnold Bennett, Literary Taste (London: Frank Palmer, 1911), pp. 12-13:
The aim of literary study is not to amuse the  hours of leisure; it is to awake oneself, it is to be alive, to intensify one's capacity for pleasure, for sympathy, and for comprehension. It is not to affect one hour, but twenty-four hours. It is to change utterly one's relations with the world. An understanding appreciation of literature means an understanding appreciation of the world, and it means nothing else. Not isolated and unconnected parts of life, but all of life, brought together and correlated in a synthetic map! The spirit of literature is unifying; it joins the candle and the star, and by the magic of an image shows that the beauty of the greater is in the less. And, not content with the disclosure of beauty and the bringing together of all things whatever within its focus, it enforces a moral wisdom by the tracing everywhere of cause and effect. It consoles doubly — by the revelation of unsuspected loveliness, and by the proof that our lot is the common lot. It is the supreme cry of the discoverer, offering sympathy and asking for it in a single gesture.

17 March 2018

A Chamber of Horrors

Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence (London: Pan Books, 1989):
A couple with their small son were having coffee, and the boy indicated his need to go to the lavatory. The father looked up from his two-day-old copy of the Daily Telegraph.

“You’d better make sure it’s all right,” he said to the boy’s mother. “Remember what happened in Calais?”

The mother sighed, and made her way dutifully into the gloom at the rear of the café. When she reappeared it was at high speed, and she looked as if she had just eaten a lemon.

“It’s disgusting. Roger is not to go in there.”

Roger became immediately interested in exploring a forbidden lavatory.

“I’ve got to go,” he said, and played his trump card. “It’s number two. I’ve got to go.”

“There isn’t even a seat. It’s just a hole.”

“I don’t care. I’ve got to go.”

“You’ll have to take him,” said the mother. “I’m not going in there again.”

The father folded his newspaper and stood up, with young Roger tugging at his hand.

“You’d better take the newspaper,” said the mother.

“I’ll finish it when I get back.”

“There’s no paper,” she hissed.

“Ah. Well, I’ll try to save the crossword.”

The minutes passed, and I was wondering if I could ask the mother exactly what had happened in Calais, when there was a loud exclamation from the back of the café.


It was the emerging Roger, followed by his ashen-faced father holding the remnants of his newspaper. Conversation in the café stopped as Roger gave an account of the expedition at the top of his voice. The patron looked at his wife and shrugged. Trust the English to make a spectacle out of a simple visit to the wa-wa.

The equipment that had caused such consternation to Roger and his parents was a toilette à la Turque, which is a shallow porcelain tray with a hole in the middle and footrests at each side. It was designed, presumably by a Turkish sanitary engineer, for maximum inconvenience, but the French had added a refinement of their own—a high-pressure flushing device of such velocity that unwary users can find themselves soaked from the shins down. There are two ways of avoiding sodden feet: the first is to operate the flushing lever from the safety of dry land in the doorway, but since this requires long arms and the balance of an acrobat, the second option—not to flush at all—is unfortunately much more prevalent. To add to the problem, some establishments install an energy-saving device which is peculiar to the French. The light switch, always located on the outside of the lavatory door, is fitted with an automatic timer that plunges the occupant into darkness after thirty-eight seconds, thus saving precious electricity and discouraging loiterers.

Amazingly enough, à la Turque lavatories are still being manufactured, and the most modern café is quite likely to have a chamber of horrors in the back.

Related posts:

15 March 2018


Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence (London: Pan Books, 1989):
Walking in the hills, I was often able to smell a house before I could see it, because of the scent of woodsmoke coming from an invisible chimney. It is one of the most primitive smells in life, and consequently extinct in most cities, where fire regulations and interior decorators have combined to turn fireplaces into blocked-up holes or self-consciously lit “architectural features.” The fireplace in Provence is still used—to cook on, to sit around, to warm the toes, and to please the eye—and fires are laid in the early morning and fed throughout the day with scrub oak from the Lubéron or beech from the foothills of Mont Ventoux. Coming home with the dogs as dusk fell, I always stopped to look from the top of the valley at the long zigzag of smoke ribbons drifting up from the farms that are scattered along the Bonnieux road. It was a sight that made me think of warm kitchens and well-seasoned stews, and it never failed to make me ravenous.

12 March 2018

The Pageant of Old Learning

Robert Aris Willmott, Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1866) pp. 9-10:
As we grow older, the poet and the historian of our boyhood and youth become dearer. The thyme of Theocritus is wafted over the memory with a refreshing perfume. By a sort of natural magic, we raise the ghost of each intellectual Pleasure, and make it appear without any dependence upon climate or time. The mind's theatre is lighted for the Pageant of old Learning to march through it, with all its pomp and music. The nightingale of Colonos enjoys a perpetual May in Sophocles. Pindar beguiles the loneliness of Cowley; while Horace lulls asleep the cares of Sanderson, and the domestic miseries of Hooker.

7 March 2018

Une Volupté Singulière

Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner (Paris: Georges Petit & Henri Floury, 1928), p. 232 (from the draft of my translation):
It requires a particular taste for voluptuous pleasure to remain sitting in a garden at twilight, watching all the details as they fade away and seem to die one by one, merging into the inexorable darkness, losing their colours and even their shapes, becoming ideas of themselves. This is when the Impressionist reckons the day is done  since there is neither daylight nor chromatic effects, he can no longer paint. But this is the moment when poetic depiction begins, when everything is a spirit, a dream, a refraction in consciousness, a prayer. And it was at this moment that Le Sidaner often set to work. 
Henri Le Sidaner, Heure Recueillir (1896)

2 March 2018

Ego Hippo

Florentin Félix Morin, "Ego Hippo," Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (Volume 22, 2017) 87-96 (at 88):
Something about being a hippo makes me feel cute, confident, sexy, and safe. I discovered that another self was available for me: being a hippo means that I don’t have to be a boy or a girl, a child or an adult, normal or strange. It means that my smile becomes a hippo smile, and the way that I carry my body, a hippo walk. It brings me freedom, space, and a thrilling sense of possibility. Where does this transformative power come from? How does a word, how does an image disrupt “reality” to the point that my body’s relationship to space is somewhat altered?

Here is a basic assertion that I will complicate later: my hippo ego was first a metaphor. I do not experience it as ontologically given, and I am fully aware that I created it with friends and loved ones. It is “merely” an image, but it is at once my shield, my screen, and my skin. My shield, because it linguistically and materially provides me with a way to evade (trans)gender assumptions and injunctions. My screen, because it is an imaginary surface of projection through which I can (dis)organize myself. And hippo is my skin, because it is a vulnerable and meaningful point of contact between my flesh and the (rest of the) world. Hippopotamus: the very word is powerful music to my ears.

What would it be like to live with a "tranimal" who identifies as a hippopotamus? Unpleasant, I should think.

Hat tip: The New Real Peer Review

28 February 2018

The Appeal of Fiction

Joséphin Péladan, Le Vice Suprême (Paris: Éditions du Monde Moderne, 1924), p. 24 (my translation):
Due to a fatal instinct in her soul, a woman who reads a novel tries on its passions; in the same way, should she find a strangely-shaped cloak hanging over a piece of furniture, she will inevitably pull it over her shoulders, happy to find herself playing the heroine.

A poster advertising two of Péladan's novels, circa 1886

27 February 2018

Jean-Barthélemy Hauréau

When I see a line like this, I want to know more about the man:

25 February 2018

Book Lending and Book Losing

C. Tomlinson in a reply to Notes and Queries, 8th Series, No. 16 (April 16, 1892), at 322:
“I lent it and lost it!” is a pathetic expression capable of moving the sympathy of every bibliophile. I, too, have lent and lost many books. Although I do not take so kindly a view of the criminals as did Sir Walter Scott, who found several of his friends to be bad arithmeticians but capital book-keepers, yet, on the other hand, I do not adopt such a pessimistic opinion as that of Charles Nodier:
Tel est le sort de tout livre prêté,
Souvent il est perdu, toujours il est gâté.
I also think Mrs. Schimmelpenninck a little severe for entering on her book-plate the following monition: “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again” (Ps. xxxvii. 21). I rather incline to the sentiment expressed by Condorcet in the following lines to his beloved books:
Chères délices de mon âme,
Gardez vous bien de me quitter,
Quoiqu'on vienne vous emprunter.
Chacun de vous m'est une femme,
Qui peut se laisser voir sans blâme,
Et ne se doit jamais prêter.
Scaliger's library motto was intended to convert the borrower into a purchaser: “Ite ad vendentes.” It is difficult for a bibliophile to understand the magnanimity of those who place their books at the disposal of others, and yet the library motto of Grolier was “Pour moi, et mes amis,” and that of Schelcher “Pour tous, et pour moi.” When I was a boy Old Montague House was yet standing, and it contained the beginnings of the British Museum collections. I often wandered through its rooms, and noticed that readers helped themselves to the books they wanted, as they still continue to do in the modern Reading Room. This was a practice common to continental libraries and led sometimes to the loss of valuable books, especially fourteeners of small size. On one occasion the old keeper of the Bibliothèque at Lyons at closing time secured the door, and said to the two readers who remained, “One of us three is a thief. I consent to be searched first.” Each delinquent pulled out a book, laughed, and said, “You are too sharp for us.” I am sorry to add that during the Revolution the soldiers of the Republic used the books of this library as fuel in cooking their rations.
A related post: Ex Libris

21 February 2018

My Never-Failing Friends

Robert Southey, "My Days Among the Dead Are Past," The Poems of Robert Southey, ed. Maurice H. Fitzgerald (London: Henry Frowde, 1909), p. 347:
My days among the Dead are past ;
    Around me I behold,
Where’er these casual eyes are cast,
    The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.

With them I take delight in weal.
    And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
    How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew’d
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
    I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn.
    Partake their hopes and fears.
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

My hopes are with the Dead, anon
    My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
   Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust.
That will not perish in the dust.

16 February 2018

Forgiveness Is Not Always a Virtue

Jeffrie G. Murphy, ‎Forgiveness and Mercy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 17-18 (footnotes omitted):
Forgiveness is not always a virtue, however. Indeed, if I am correct in linking resentment to self-respect, a too ready tendency to forgive may properly be regarded as a vice because it may be a sign that one lacks respect for oneself. Not to have what Peter Strawson calls the "reactive attitude" of resentment when our rights are violated is to convey — emotionally — either that we do not think we have rights or that we do not take our rights very seriously. Forgiveness may indeed restore relationships, but to seek restoration at all cost — even at the cost of one's very human dignity — can hardly be a virtue. And, in intimate relationships, it can hardly be true love or friendship either — the kind of love and friendship that Aristotle claimed is an essential part of the virtuous life. When we are willing to be doormats for others, we have, not love, but rather what the psychiatrist Karen Horney calls "morbid dependency." If I count morally as much as anyone else (as surely I do), a failure to resent moral injuries done to me is a failure to care about the moral value incarnate in my own person (that I am, in Kantian language, an end in myself) and thus a failure to care about the very rules of morality. To put the point in yet another way: If it is proper to feel indignation when I see third parties morally wronged, must it not be equally proper to feel resentment when I experience the moral wrong done to myself? Morality is not simply something to be believed in; it is something to be cared about. This caring includes concern about those persons (including oneself) who are the proper objects of moral attention.

Interestingly enough, a hasty readiness to forgive — or even a refusal to display resentment initially — may reveal a lack of respect, not just for oneself, but for others as well. The Nietzschean view, for example, is sometimes portrayed (perhaps unfairly) as this: There is no need for forgiveness, because a truly strong person will never feel resentment in the first place. Why? Because he is not so weak as to think that other people — even those who harm him — matter enough to have any impact on his self-respect. We do not resent the insect that stings us (we simply deal with it), and neither should we resent the human who wrongs us.

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15 February 2018

Improved Fabrics, but Deteriorated Men

William Ellery Channing, "Spiritual Freedom," The Works of William Ellery Channing, Vol. IV (Boston : American Unitarian Association, 1903), pp. 83-84:
An important benefit of civilization, of which we hear much from the political economist, is the division of labor, by which arts are perfected. But this, by confining the mind to an unceasing round of petty operations, tends to break it into littleness. We possess improved fabrics, but deteriorated men. Another advantage of civilization is, that manners are refined, and accomplishments multiplied; but these are continually seen to supplant simplicity of character, strength of feeling, the love of nature, the love of inward beauty and glory. Under outward courtesy, we see a cold selfishness, a spirit of calculation, and little energy of love.
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9 February 2018

Gussied Up

Pierre Daniel Huet (1630–1721), "De optimo genere interpretandi," [On the Best Way of Translating] tr. André Lefevere, from Translation/History/Culture; A Sourcebook (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 88:
The best possible likeness is that which renders the lines of the mouth, the color, the eyes, the shape of the face, and the way in which the body moves in such a manner that the absent man who is portrayed can be thought of as present. But a bad likeness pictures a thing in a manner different from what it is, more beautiful and with a happier countenance. We do not like translations that eat up the author’s fat or put more fat on him, nor do we like translations that clear up obscure passages, correct mistakes, or sort out bad syntax. We would rather have a translation that shows us the whole author, closely copied in our native style, and one that makes it possible for us to either praise his virtues, should they be deserving of praise, or scoff at his vices. For who, except a young girl who loves herself too much and wants to please herself too much would praise a mirror that so disfigures the face that it reflects a rosy forehead, or a forehead full of vigor, or even a forehead tempered with decent splendor when shown a face of ghastly pallor, or a face that is shrivelled and emaciated, or even a face that shines with too much red color. Who would not mock a woman made up in such a way that she displays an unbecoming face, false teeth, false hair, and simulated height? Indeed, we might even wish her dead.
For the original, see book one of Huet's De Interpretatione Libri Duo (The Hague: Arnold Leers, 1683), pp. 16-17.

8 February 2018

The Courage to Be Ignorant

Sydney Smith, "On the Conduct of the Understanding," Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1855), p. 99:
Then there is another piece of foppery which is to be cautiously guarded against — the foppery of universality, — of knowing all sciences and excelling in all arts, — chemistry, mathematics, algebra, dancing, history, reasoning, riding, fencing, Low Dutch, High Dutch, natural philosophy, and enough Spanish to talk about Lope de Vega : in short, the modern precept of education very often is, "Take the Admirable Crichton for your model ; I would have you ignorant of nothing!" Now my advice, on the contrary, is, to have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of every thing.

5 February 2018

Rather Impressionist Than Pre-Raphaelite

Sir Thomas Herbert Warren, "The Art of Translation," Essays of Poets and Poetry (London: John Murray, 1909), pp. 85-133 (at pp. 105-106):
A good translation should read like an original. Why? Because the original reads like an original....

And to read like an original, a translation must be idiomatic in the language in which it is written. Thus, as Jowett says, "The first requisite of an English translation is that it be English." This is the canon which is most frequently transgressed by translators. It is the non-observance of it which at once separates off and condemns the mass of inferior translations. All who have any large acquaintance with translations are familiar with what may be called "translation English," a language which is neither English nor Greek nor Latin, French nor German, but something between the two. The grosser forms of it do not need to be pointed out. "Pigeon English," "English as she is spoke," these we all know; as again all teachers know the "translation English" of the fourth-form boy. The subtler, less obvious forms of it are just those which distinguish inferior translations. How often, when we read a translation, do we not feel that no one could write thus unless he had been translating? — a feeling which at once pro tanto, if our canon be good, condemns the work.

Now, if a translation is to be idiomatic, since the idioms of different languages differ, it is obvious that a literal translation is at once condemned. Here, as elsewhere, the letter killeth, the spirit giveth life. A really good translation should be not so much exact as faithful. It should not be free, but it should be, what is the same thing with a difference, liberal. It should be, in the language of Painting, not perhaps exactly Impressionist, but rather Impressionist than Pre-Raphaelite.
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1 February 2018

Deutsche Sprache, Schöne Sprache

Enoch Powell, "Sentimental Journey," in Reflections of a Statesman (London: Bellew, 1991), p. 104:
I remember, as sharply as Keats recalled first looking into Chapman's Homer, the moment — it must have been in 1927 — when I opened my first German book. Here was the language I had dreamt of but never knew existed: sharp, hard, strict but with words which were romance in themselves, words in which poetry and music vibrated together. 

Ibid., p. 108:
[O]ne dived in and out of the mighty river of German nineteenth-century philosophy — itself, despite the often less than sensuous language clothing it, as much poetry as pure reason. In particular, for one torn between myth and reality, poetry and prose, Schopenhauer was unavoidable. His World as Will and Imagination was consumed in half-hour stretches day by day on Sydney tramcars that clanged their way through the hot Australian sunlight.

Ibid., p. 109 (on Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen):
Siegfried's was also the voice which proclaimed one of the great moral discoveries of humanity: that it is better to die than to live in fear. The moment when Siegfried, about to restore the ring to the Rhinemaidens, thrusts it back onto his finger because, once he knows that the curse attaches to it, his act would be tainted with fear, from which he can only regain freedom by deliberately incurring he curse, is one of the supreme moments in literature — the pagan counterpart of the Crucifixion itself. 
When Powell was a guest on BBC Radio's Desert Island Disks, he chose four pieces by Wagner, three by Beethoven, and one by Haydn. He discussed his fondness for Wagner at some length.

30 January 2018


J. F. Dickie, Germany (London: A. C. Black, 1912), p. 72:
Ratisbon, or Regensburg as it is called by the Germans, is an ancient city with a most remarkable history. It has many Roman remains, the most conspicuous of which is the massive Porta Pretoria, whose foundations lie far below the level of the street. The splendour of the past is crystallised in many monumental buildings of all periods of the Christian era, and belonging to many styles of architecture. Regensburg is a historical jewel, and is one of the most interesting cities in the land.
Ibid., p. 74:
There is a charm about this old town that is indefinable. No one seems to be in a hurry. After the strenuous life of sight-seeing the tourist has pursued amid the art galleries of Munich, the restfulness of Ratisbon is delightful.

Moreover, it is a paradise for the student of architecture, and has hundreds of sermons in stones for those who know how to read.

E. T. Compton's painting of the nearby Walhalla, from the same book

I have fond memories of the time I spent studying in Regensburg. The university, however, is not worth visiting: it was built in the 1960s and is made entirely of cement.

Hat tip: Henry Sotheran's Bookshop, via zmkc.

29 January 2018

A Lazy Task for Second-Rate Minds

Sir Thomas Herbert Warren, "The Art of Translation," Essays of Poets and Poetry (London: John Murray, 1909), pp. 85-133 (at p. 89):
There is a common view of translation which regards it as naturally and necessarily a task for inferior minds, capable of being performed adequately by them and unworthy of any great or good ability, a fit employment for those who are essaying or those who have failed in literature. Much translation doubtless is produced by hacks, and it is obviously poor enough. But such production is in reality only like the other hack or journeyman work which fringes true and living literature. Translation worthy of the name has its proper place, and that no mean one, in the hierarchy of letters. Nay, rather what is noteworthy is not that so much translation is done by inferior writers for gain and as a trade, but that so much is done by men of ability for love and for little hire.
Ibid., p. 101:
So far from translation being a lazy task for second-rate minds, it is a task which tries the best powers of the best. It is only the best ages of literature, and the best writers, that can produce really excellent translations. The reason why they do not oftener give themselves to the task is partly that they are naturally preoccupied with their own creative effort, partly the difficulty, the insuperable difficulty, of the task; and therefore its inherently unsatisfactory character.
This is an interesting essay. I'll quote more from it later.

25 January 2018

Natural Inclinations

Henry Bulwer, "James Mackintosh," Historical Characters, Vol. II (London: Richard Bentley, 1868), p. 95:
I cannot repeat too often that no man struggles perpetually and victoriously against his own character; and one of the first principles of success in life, is so to regulate our career as rather to turn our physical constitution and natural inclinations to good account, than to endeavour to counteract the one or oppose the other.
Mosaic found beneath San Gregorio Magno al Celio in Rome

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23 January 2018

Counsel Upon the Reading of Books

Henry Van Dyke, "A Preface on Reading and Books," Counsel Upon the Reading of Books (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1901), pp. 21-22:
Read the preface first. It was probably written last. But the author put it at the beginning because he wanted to say something particular to you before you entered the book. Go in through the front door.

Read plenty of books about people and things, but not too many books about books. Literature is not to be taken in emulsion. The only way to know a great author is to read his works for yourself. That will give you knowledge at first-hand.

Read one book at a time, but never one book alone. Well-born books always have relatives. Follow them up. Learn something about the family if you want to understand the individual. If you have been reading the "Idylls of the King" go back to Sir Thomas Malory: if you have been keeping company with Stevenson, travel for a while with Scott, Dumas, and Defoe.

Read the old books, — those that have stood the test of time. Read them slowly, carefully, thoroughly. They will help you to discriminate among the new ones.

Read no book with which the author has not taken pains enough to write it in a clean, sound, lucid style. Life is short. If he thought so little of his work that he left it in the rough, it is not likely to be worth your pains in reading it.

Read over again the ten best books that you have already read. The result of this experiment will test your taste, measure your advance, and fit you for progress in the art of reading.
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