29 November 2013

A Last Revise

Oliver Warner, Chatto & Windus; A Brief Account of the Firm's Origin, History and Development (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973), p. 18:
George Frommholz [the production manager at Chatto & Windus in the early 1900s] was himself one of those endearing people with an original sense of humour. Behind his desk in St. Martin's Lane he had a sliding panel in the wall which enabled him to pass material to the Reader in the next room without the need for walking down the passage. One day, handing through a bundle of heavily revised proofs, such as were not uncommon when printing was less expensive that it now is, he remarked: 'When I die, I hope some one will put on my tomb-stone: "Here lies Frommholz — sent up for a last Revise!" '
Max Weber, Chardenal Dictionary (1908)

28 November 2013


Saturday will be the 200th anniversary of the birth of the French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan. I am fond of Grâces, No. 19 in his series of Esquisses (op. 63); you can click here to listen to it on Youtube.

With best wishes to my American friends who are celebrating l'Action de grâce today.

Koloman Moser (1869-1918), Die drei Grazien

27 November 2013

An Ideal Friend

L'abbé Nicolas-Charles-Joseph Trublet (1697-1770), quoted in François Fertiault's Les amoureux du livre (Paris: A. Claudin, 1877), p. 298. My translation:
I do not understand how it is that people can not like reading, when one considers that a book is a friend who moralises without offending anyone. He takes the most convenient hour, day or night, to speak to you, and he always does so dispassionately. He is never upset at being interrupted in the midst of his time with you, nor is he annoyed when you pass lightly over things that cost him dearly and which he considers excellent. 
I could not find a full set of Trublet's Essais de littérature et de morale on Gallica.fr or Archive.org, but scans of all four volumes of the 1762 edition are on Google Books.

Róbert Berény, Olvasó nő (1906)

A related post: Books Are Real Friends

26 November 2013

Big Books

Edwin Grabhorn interviewed by Ruth Teiser in Recollections of the Grabhorn Press (Berkeley: University of California, 1968), pp. 79-80:
Teiser: As I remember, people used to kid you about never printing little books, always printing huge books.

Grabhorn: Well, I found out, too it was a matter of price. You print a little book and put a lot of work into it and the most you get for it is $3. You print very big books, even if they have only half a dozen pages, you can justify $20, $25 for the price .

Teiser: So that was really why?

Grabhorn: Yes. I printed the [Diary of Johann August] Sutter, a very small book and charged $2 for it.

Teiser: Did you think it was a good book?

Grabhorn: It was a nice little book, yes.

Teiser: If there were no economic factors, would you have preferred to print small books?

Grabhorn: No.

Teiser: Does a large book give you more scope?

Grabhorn: A small book is harder to design. It's harder to make it look good. Why do you think people buy Rolls Royces, or big automobiles?
In 1926 The Grabhorn Press printed an edition of The Book of Job that measured 11 x 17 inches.

25 November 2013

Close and Sympathetic Companionship

William Henry Hudson, An Introduction to the Study of Literature (London: Harrap, 1913), pp. 17-18:
A great book is born of the brain and heart of its author; he has put himself into its pages; they partake of his life, and are instinct with his individuality. It is to the man in the book, therefore, that to begin with we have to find our way. We have to get to know him as an individual. To establish personal intercourse with our books in a simple, direct, human way, should thus be our primary and constant purpose. We want first of all to become, not scholars, but good readers; and we can become good readers only when we make our reading a matter of close and sympathetic companionship. "Personal experience," it has been rightly said, "is the basis of all real literature"; and to enter into such personal experience, and to share it, is similarly the basis of all real literary culture. A great book owes its greatness in the first instance to the greatness of the personality which gave it life; for what we call genius is only another name for freshness and originality of nature, with its resulting freshness and originality of outlook upon the world, of insight, and of thought. The mark of a really great book is that it has something fresh and original to say, and that it says this in a fresh and independent way. It is the utterance of one who has himself been close to those aspects of life of which he speaks, who has looked at them with his own eyes, who by the keenness of his vision has seen more deeply into things, and by the strength of his genius has apprehended their meaning more powerfully than the common race of men; and who in addition has the artist's wonderful faculty of making us see and feel with him. "A good book," as Milton finely says in words which, however hackneyed, can hardly be too often repeated, "is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."
Not to be confused with the naturalist William Henry Hudson (1841-1922), this William Henry Hudson (1862-1918) was a lecturer at the University of London Extension and contributed to Harrap's Poetry and Life series. Hudson's Schiller and his Poetry is available here; the poems are printed in Fraktur without translation, while Hudson's commentary is in English. What publisher would do such a thing today?

Charlemagne Oscar Guet, Reading (1868)

22 November 2013


George Gissing, Born in Exile (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1896), pp. 271-272:
I can't pretend to care for anything but individuals. The few whom I know and love are of more importance to me than all the blind multitude rushing to destruction. I hate the word majority; it is the few, the very few, that have always kept alive whatever of effectual good we see in the human race. There are individuals who outweigh, in every kind of value, generations of ordinary people.
Gissing was born on this day in 1857.

Caspar David Friedrich, Zwei Männer am Meer (1817)

21 November 2013

I Sing for the Muses and Myself

Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), quoted in Frederic Fairchild Sherman's privately printed monograph on the artist (New York: 1920), pp. 21-22:
The artist needs but a roof, a crust of bread and his easel, and all the rest God gives him in abundance. He must live to paint and not paint to live. He cannot be a good fellow; he is rarely a wealthy man, and upon the potboiler is inscribed the epitaph of his art.

The artist should not sacrifice his ideals to a landlord and a costly studio. A rain-tight roof, frugal living, a box of colors and God's sunlight through clear windows keep the soul attuned and the body vigorous for one's daily work. The artist should once and forever emancipate himself from the bondage of appearance and the unpardonable sin of expending on ignoble aims the precious ointment that should serve only to nourish the lamp burning before the tabernacle of his muse.
Albert Pinkham Ryder, Dancing Dryads (1879)

20 November 2013

Who May Regret What Was?

John Freeman (1880-1929), Memories of Childhood and Other Poems (London: Selwyn & Blount, 1919), p. 25:
Hateful it seems now, yet was I not happy?
Starved of the things I loved, I did not know
I loved them, and was happy lacking them.
If bitterness comes now (and that is hell)
It is when I forget that I was happy,
Accusing Fate, that sits and nods and laughs,
Because I was not born a bird or tree.
Let accusation sleep, lest God's own finger
Point angry from the cloud in which He hides.
Who may regret what was, since it has made
Himself himself? All that I was I am,
And the old childish joy now lives in me
At sight of a green field or a green tree.
 Note to self: Freeman's study of George Moore can be found here.

19 November 2013

Life Is a Loan, Death the Repayment

E. James Lieberman, Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993):
Life is a loan, death the repayment. The artist type takes the loan and spends or invests it — willingly. Such a person accepts the finite term of the loan, and makes choices in accordance with that reality. The neurotic, in contrast, cannot willingly accept the loan with its limit. He or she vacillates, paralyzed by anxiety and doubt, refusing to commit the life-loan. At repayment time, the neurotic hopes — pathetically — to flout the limit. “I haven’t begun yet. I should not have to die — I have not really lived!”
Otto Rank discusses this idea in Technik der Psychoanalyse III; Die Analyse des Analytikers (Wien: Franz Deuticke, 1931), pp. 43-44.

A man drinks Brüderschaft with Death; notice the linked arms.
From Bilder des Todes oder Todtentanz für alle Stände
(Leipzig: Engelmann, 1850), p. 16.

18 November 2013

A Noble Activity

David Mason, The Pope's Bookbinder (Windsor: Biblioasis, 2013), p. 112:
While a good part of the excitement in finding a significant book is the eventual profit, the imaginative [antiquarian book] scout comes to realize that he has a higher purpose; he is rescuing from obscurity something which has historical or aesthetic value to society. And having rescued it, his next social function is to then place it somewhere where its contribution to the record of civilization will be understood. He is serving the future by saving the past, a noble activity.
David Mason Books in Toronto

15 November 2013

Drop English and Learn a Trade

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft  (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), pp. 48-49:
Innumerable are the men and women now writing for bread, who have not the least chance of finding in such work a permanent livelihood. They took to writing because they knew not what else to do, or because the literary calling tempted them by its independence and its dazzling prizes. They will hang on to the squalid profession, their earnings eked out by begging and borrowing, until it is too late for them to do anything else — and then? With a lifetime of dread experience behind me, I say that he who encourages any young man or woman to look for his living to “literature,” commits no less than a crime. If my voice had any authority, I would cry this truth aloud wherever men could hear. Hateful as is the struggle for life in every form, this rough-and-tumble of the literary arena seems to me sordid and degrading beyond all others. Oh, your prices per thousand words! Oh, your paragraphings and your interviewings! And oh, the black despair that awaits those down-trodden in the fray.
Stephen Alcorn, New Grub Street (1984)

14 November 2013

Like This Post!

Jonathan Franzen, "Pain Won't Kill You," Farther Away (Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2012), pp. 6-7:
[T]he verb "to like" [is being transformed] from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture's substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products — and none more so than electronic devices and applications — is that they're designed to be immensely likable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren't fixated on your liking it. I'm thinking here of jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature.

But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can't tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you've despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they've fallen for your shtick.

13 November 2013

The Typewriter Makes Everyone Look the Same

Martin Heidegger, Parmenides, tr. André Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), pp. 80-81:
It is not accidental that modern man writes "with" the typewriter and "dictates" [diktiert] (the same word as "poetize" [Dichten]) "into" a machine. This "history" of the kinds of writing is one of the main reasons for the increasing destruction of the word. The latter no longer comes and goes by means of the writing hand, the properly acting hand, but by means of the mechanical forces it releases. The typewriter tears writing from the essential realm of the hand, i.e., the realm of the word. The word itself turns into something "typed." Where typewriting, on the contrary, is only a transcription and serves to preserve the writing, or turns into print something already written, there it has a proper, though limited, significance. In the time of the first dominance of the typewriter, a letter written on this machine still stood for a breach of good manners. Today a hand-written letter is an antiquated and undesired thing; it disturbs speed reading. Mechanical writing deprives the hand of its rank in the realm of the written word and degrades the word to a means of communication. In addition, mechanical writing provides this "advantage," that it conceals the handwriting and thereby the character. The typewriter makes everyone look the same.

12 November 2013

Literature and the Marketplace

Jonathan Franzen, "Why Bother?", How to Be Alone (Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2002), pp. 64-65:
There's never been much love lost between literature and the marketplace. The consumer economy loves a product that sells at a premium, wears out quickly or is susceptible to regular improvement, and offers with each improvement some marginal gain in usefulness. To an economy like this, news that stays news is not merely an inferior product; it's an antithetical product. A classic work of literature is inexpensive, infinitely reusable, and, worst of all, unimprovable.

11 November 2013

Have You Forgotten Yet?

Siegfried Sassoon, "Aftermath," Picture-Show (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1920), pp. 47-48:

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same, — and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz, —
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench,—
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack,—
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.

Frederick Varley, For What? (c. 1918)

7 November 2013

A Living Book

Charles Whibley, "Translators," in The Cambridge History of English Literature, Vol. IV (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 1-25, (at p. 16):
It will be seen that Florio’s method [of translating Michel de Montaigne's essays] was neither just nor accurate. He made no attempt to suppress himself as we are told a good translator should. The reader never forgets that “resolute John Florio” is looking out from the page as well as Montaigne. He is often inaccurate, and not seldom he misses the point. But compare his version with [Charles] Cotton’s, and you will not hesitate to give the palm to Florio. Cotton’s translation is a sound and scholarly piece of work; Florio’s is a living book.

6 November 2013

Scarcely Leisure for a Sigh

T. S. Moore, A Brief Account of the Origin of the Eragny Press (Hammersmith: The Eragny Press, 1903), p. 6:
Haste and hurry are the mortal foes of delicacy, discrimination, contemplation and refinement. In an age of motors art has untold enemies: the circumstances of our life are hostile to beauty; we are robbed right and left, but we have not the time to realize our losses. Our lives are so impoverished that we have scarcely leisure for a sigh. And those who have time upon their hands often seem best pleased when they are able to emulate the slaves of machinery, in some exercise originally designed to recreate, or in some self-imposed task which they are happy to entitle philanthropy, public spirit, or even science, even art. But life? that is forgotten, or only spoken of in terms that would lead one to suppose it was some prevalent malady.

5 November 2013

A Window Between Reader and Author

Beatrice Warde, The Crystal Goblet: Sixteen Essays on Typography (London: Sylvan Press, 1955):
The book typographer has the job of erecting a window between the reader inside the room and that landscape which is the author's words. He may put up a stained-glass window of marvellous beauty, but a failure as a window; that is, he may use some rich superb type like text gothic that is something to be looked at, not through. Or he may work in what I call transparent or invisible typography. I have a book at home, of which I have no visual recollection whatever as far as its typography goes; when I think of it, all I see is the Three Musketeers and their comrades swaggering up and down the streets of Paris. The third type of window is one in which the glass is broken into relatively small leaded panes; and this corresponds to what is called 'fine printing' today, in that you are at least conscious that there is a window there, and that someone has enjoyed building it. That is not objectionable, because of a very important fact which has to do with the psychology of the subconscious mind. That is that the mental eye focuses through type and not upon it. The type which, through any arbitrary warping of design or excess of 'colour', gets in the way of the mental picture to be conveyed, is a bad type. Our subconsciousness is always afraid of blunders (which illogical setting, tight spacing and too-wide unleaded lines can trick us into), of boredom, and of officiousness. The running headline that keeps shouting at us, the line that looks like one long word, the capitals jammed together without hair-spaces — these mean subconscious squinting and loss of mental focus.


Printing demands a humility of mind, for the lack of which many of the fine arts are even now floundering in self-conscious and maudlin experiments. There is nothing simple or dull in achieving the transparent page. Vulgar ostentation is twice as easy as discipline. When you realise that ugly typography never effaces itself; you will be able to capture beauty as the wise men capture happiness by aiming at something else. The 'stunt typographer' learns the fickleness of rich men who hate to read. Not for them are long breaths held over serif and kern, they will not appreciate your splitting of hair-spaces. Nobody (save the other craftsmen) will appreciate half your skill. But you may spend endless years of happy experiment in devising that crystalline goblet which is worthy to hold the vintage of the human mind.

4 November 2013

Hack Writers

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (London: Macmillan, 1887), pp. 413-414:
The fault I find with writing as a profession is that it does not pay to do your best. I don’t mean to insinuate that downright slovenly or careless work is the most profitable; but I do mean to say that any high degree of conscientiousness, especially in the way of study and research, is a direct injury to the professional writer’s purse. Suppose, for example, that he is engaged in reviewing a book, and is to get 3l. 10s. for the review when it is written. If by the accident of previous accumulation his knowledge is already fully equal to the demand upon it, the review may be written rapidly, and the day’s work will have been a profitable one; but if, on the other hand, it is necessary to consult several authorities, to make some laborious researches, then the reviewer is placed in a dilemma between literary thoroughness and duty to his family. He cannot spend a week in reading up a subject for the sum of 3l. 10s. Is it not much easier to string together a few phrases which will effectually hide his ignorance from everybody but the half-dozen enthusiasts who have mastered the subject of the book? It is strange that the professional pursuit of literature should be a direct discouragement to study; yet it is so. There are hack-writers who study, and they deserve much honour for doing so, since the temptations the other way are always so pressing and immediate.

1 November 2013

Every Man's Anthology

J. Lewis May, John Lane and the Nineties (London: Bodley Head, 1936), pp. 102-103:
It was when [the poet John Davidson (1857-1909)] was writing his Random Itinerary, a record of tramps round London at a distance of some eight to ten miles from Charing Cross. I accompanied him on one of them. We lunched on bread and cheese and beer consumed on an alehouse bench. The fare was Spartan, but the talk  on his side at least  was Attic. Only one fragment remains with me, but it is a valuable one. 'Every man,' said Davidson, 'should make his own anthology, and (pointing to his forehead) keep it here.'