31 July 2018

Hapless Ages

Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, Vol. I (London: George Bell and Sons, 1902), pp. 12-13:
But what of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms? When Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of persons in authority has become one of two things: an Imbecility or a Macchiavelism? Alas, of these ages World-History can take no notice; they have to become compressed more and more, and finally suppressed in the Annals of Mankind; blotted out as spurious,—which indeed they are. Hapless ages: wherein, if ever in any, it is an unhappiness to be born. To be born, and to learn only, by every tradition and example, that God's Universe is Belial's and a Lie; and 'the Supreme Quack' the hierarch of men! In which mournfulest faith, nevertheless, do we not see whole generations (two, and sometimes even three successively) live, what they call living; and vanish,—without chance of reappearance?

29 July 2018

Continual Endeavour and Endurance

Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, Vol. I (London: George Bell and Sons, 1902), p. 62:
Man is not what one calls a happy animal; his appetite for sweet victual is so enormous. How, in this wild Universe, which storms in on him, infinite, vague-menacing, shall poor man find, say not happiness, but existence, and footing to stand on, if it be not by girding himself together for continual endeavour and endurance? Woe, if in his heart there dwelt no devout Faith; if the word Duty had lost its meaning for him!

25 July 2018

Nie Wieder Bruderkrieg

Philip Gibbs, Realities of War (London: Heinemann, 1920), p. 441:
If Christianity has no restraining influence upon the brutal instincts of those who profess and follow its faith, then surely it is time the world abandoned so ineffective a creed and turned to other laws likely to have more influence on human relationships. That, brutally, is the argument of the thinking world against the clergy of all nations who all claimed to be acting according to the justice of God and the spirit of Christ [during the First World War]. It is a powerful argument, for the simple mind, rejecting casuistry, cuts straight to the appalling contrast between Christian profession and Christian practice, and says, "Here, in this war, there was no conflict between one faith and another, but a murderous death-struggle between many nations holding the same faith, preaching the same Gospel, and claiming the same God as their protector. Let us seek some better truth than that hypocrisy! Let us, if need be, in honesty, get back to the savage worship of national gods, the Ju-ju of the Tribe."
John Singer Sargent, Gassed (1919)

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

Fontainebleau

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)