10 February 2014

The Perfect Eremite

W. Compton Leith (pseudonym of Ormonde Maddock Dalton, 1866-1945), Apologia Diffidentis (London: John Lane, 1917), pp. 56-58:
A shy nature upon this plane of susceptibility suffers anguish from an uncontrollable body; and even in peaceful moments the memory of the discomfitures so inflicted may distort a man's whole view of the world around him. He is impatient of the wit which demands a versatility in response beyond his powers, and persuades himself into contempt of those ephemeral arts to which his nature cannot be constrained. Irritated at the injustice which places so high in the general scale of values accomplishments which he cannot practise, shrinking from the suave devices of gesture and expression which in his own case might quickly pass into antic or grimace, he withdraws more and more from the places where such arts win esteem to live in a private world of inner sentiment. As he leaves this sure retreat but rarely himself, so he forbids ingress to others; and becoming yearly a greater recluse, he confines himself more and more within the walls of his forbidden city. The mind which may have been fitted to expand in the free play of intellectual debate or to explore the high peaks of idea, loses its power of flight in this cave where it dwells with a company of sad thoughts, until at last the sacrifice is complete and the perfect eremite is formed.