30 August 2013

What End Do We Propose Ourselves?

Étienne Pivert de Senancour, Obermann (Letter LXIII), tr. Arthur Edward Waite (London: William Rider & Son, 1909), pp. 255-256:
Every cause is hidden, each end deceptive. Every form changes, all duration slips away; and the agony of the insatiable heart is but the blind course of a meteor wandering in the void where it must be lost. Nothing is possessed as we anticipate, nothing known as it is. We perceive relations only, not essences. We do not make use of things, but of their images. Sought without us and impenetrable within us, Nature is dark everywhere. "I feel," is the sole affirmation for him who would have truth only. And that which constitutes the certitude of my existence is also its torture. I do feel, I do exist, but it is to be consumed by unconquerable desires, to be plunged in the sorcery of a fantastic world, to be overwhelmed by its voluptuous deception.
What! Is happiness not the first law of human nature, pleasure not the first motive spring of the sensible world? If we do not seek pleasure, what end do we propose ourselves? If to live be merely to exist, what need have we to live? We can discover neither the first cause nor the true motive of any being; the wherefore of the universe remains inaccessible to individual intelligence. The end of our existence is unknown to us; every act of life is void of object; our desires, our cares, our affections are ridiculous, if these acts do not tend to pleasure, if these affections do not propose it to themselves.

29 August 2013

The Use of Knowledge

Grant Allen, "William Herschel, Bandsman," in Biographies of Working Men (New York: E. & J. B. Young, 1890), pp. 109-111:
Poor Carolina was horrified at the house at Datchet, which seemed terribly desolate and poor, even to her modest German ideas; but William [Herschel] declared his willingness to live permanently and cheerfully upon "eggs and bacon" now that he was at last free to do nothing on earth but observe the heavens. Night after night he and Carolina worked together at their silent task — he noting the small features with his big telescope, she "sweeping for comets" with a smaller glass or "finder." Herschel could have had no more useful or devoted assistant than his sister, who idolized him with all her heart. Alexander, too, came to stay with them during the slack months at Bath, and then the whole strength of the family was bent together on their labour of love in gauging the heavens.
But what use was it all? Why should they wish to go star-gazing? Well, if a man cannot see for himself what use it was, nobody else can put the answer into him, any more than they could put into him a love for nature, or for beauty, or for art, or for music, if he had it not to start with. What is the good of a great picture, a splendid oratorio, a grand poem? To the man who does not care for them, nothing; to the man who loves them, infinite. It is just the same with science. The use of knowledge to a mind like Herschel's is the mere possession of it. With such as he, it is a love, an object of desire, a thing to be sought after for its own sake; and the mere act of finding it is in itself purely delightful. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her." So, to such a man as Herschel, that peaceful astronomer life at Datchet was indeed, in the truest sense of those much-abused words, "success in life." If you had asked some vulgar-minded neighbour of the great Sir William in his later days whether the astronomer had been a successful man or not, he would doubtless have answered, after his kind, "Certainly. He has been made a knight, has lands in two counties, and has saved £35,000." But if you had asked William Herschel himself, he would probably have said, with his usual mixture of earnestness and humility, "Yes, I have been a very fortunate man in life. I have discovered Uranus, and I have gauged all the depths of heaven, as none before ever gauged them, with my own great telescope."

28 August 2013

What Fools Think

Grant Allen, "John Gibson, Sculptor," in Biographies of Working Men (New York: E. & J. B. Young, 1890), pp. 80-81:
For twenty-seven years Gibson remained at Rome, working assiduously at his art, and rising gradually but surely to the very first place among then living sculptors. His studio now became the great centre of all fashionable visitors to Rome. Still, he made no effort to get rich, though he got rich without wishing it; he worked on merely for art's sake, not for money. He would not do as many sculptors do, keep several copies in marble of his more popular statues for sale; he preferred to devote all his time to new works. "Gibson was always absorbed in one subject," says Lady Eastlake, "and that was the particular work or part of a work — were it but the turn of a corner of drapery — which was then under his modelling hands. Time was nothing to him; he was long and fastidious." His favourite pupil, Miss Hosmer, once expressed regret to him that she had been so long about a piece of work on which she was engaged. "Always try to do the best you can," Gibson answered. "Never mind how long you are upon a work — no. No one will ask how long you have been, except fools. You don't care what fools think."

27 August 2013

Pity the Poor Rich Men

Izaak Walton (1594-1683) and Charles Cotton (1630-1687), The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation (London: Cassell & Co., 1909), pp. 22-23:
And for you that have heard many grave, serious men pity Anglers; let me tell you, Sir, there be many men that are by others taken to be serious and grave men, whom we contemn and pity. Men that are taken to be grave, because nature hath made them of a sour complexion; money-getting men, men that spend all their time, first in getting, and next, in anxious care to keep it; men that are condemned to be rich, and then always busy or discontented: for these poor rich men, we Anglers pity them perfectly, and stand in no need to borrow their thoughts to think ourselves so happy. No, no, Sir, we enjoy a contentedness above the reach of such dispositions, and as the learned and ingenuous Montaigne says – like himself, freely, "When my Cat and I entertain each other with mutual apish tricks, as playing with a garter, who knows but that I make my Cat more sport than she makes me? Shall I conclude her to be simple, that has her time to begin or refuse, to play as freely as I myself have? Nay, who knows but that it is a defect of my not understanding her language, for doubtless Cats talk and reason with one another, that we agree no better: and who knows but that she pities me for being no wiser than to play with her, and laughs and censures my folly, for making sport for her, when we two play together?"
Thus freely speaks Montaigne concerning Cats; and I hope I may take as great a liberty to blame any man, and laugh at him too, let him be never so grave, that hath not heard what Anglers can say in the justification of their art and recreation; which I may again tell you, is so full of pleasure, that we need not borrow their thoughts, to think ourselves happy.

26 August 2013

An Ideal of Decency

Robert Louis Stevenson, "Pulvis et Umbra," in Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906), pp. 176-177:
What a monstrous spectre is this man, the disease of the agglutinated dust, lifting alternate feet or lying drugged with slumber; killing, feeding, growing, bringing forth small copies of himself; grown upon with hair like grass, fitted with eyes that move and glitter in his face; a thing to set children screaming; — and yet looked at nearlier, known as his fellows know him, how surprising are his attributes! Poor soul, here for so little, cast among so many hardships, filled with desires so incommensurate and so inconsistent, savagely surrounded, savagely descended, irremediably condemned to prey upon his fellow lives: who should have blamed him had he been of a piece with his destiny and a being merely barbarous? And we look and behold him instead filled with imperfect virtues: infinitely childish, often admirably valiant, often touchingly kind; sitting down, amidst his momentary life, to debate of right and wrong and the attributes of the deity; rising up to do battle for an egg or die for an idea; singling out his friends and his mate with cordial affection; bringing forth in pain, rearing with long-suffering solicitude, his young. To touch the heart of his mystery, we find in him one thought, strange to the point of lunacy: the thought of duty; the thought of something owing to himself, to his neighbour, to his God: an ideal of decency, to which he would rise if it were possible; a limit of shame, below which, if it be possible, he will not stoop. The design in most men is one of conformity; here and there, in picked natures, it transcends itself and soars on the other side, arming martyrs with independence; but in all, in their degrees, it is a bosom thought: — Not in man alone, for we trace it in dogs and cats whom we know fairly well, and doubtless some similar point of honour sways the elephant, the oyster, and the louse, of whom we know so little: — But in man, at least, it sways with so complete an empire that merely selfish things come second, even with the selfish: that appetites are starved, fears are conquered, pains supported; that almost the dullest shrinks from the reproof of a glance, although it were a child's; and all but the most cowardly stand amid the risks of war; and the more noble, having strongly conceived an act as due to their ideal, affront and embrace death. Strange enough if, with their singular origin and perverted practice, they think they are to be rewarded in some future life: stranger still, if they are persuaded of the contrary, and think this blow, which they solicit, will strike them senseless for eternity.

23 August 2013

A Strangely Vivid Understanding of Other Ages

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (London: Macmillan, 1887), pp. 327-328:
It is a traditional habit of mankind to see only the disadvantages of solitude, without considering its compensations; but there are great compensations, some of the greatest being negative. The lonely man is lord of his own hours and of his own purse; his days are long and unbroken, he escapes from every form of ostentation, and may live quite simply and sincerely in great calm breadths of leisure. I knew one who passed his summers in the heart of a vast forest, in a common thatched cottage with furniture of common deal, and for this retreat he quitted very gladly a rich fine house in the city. He wore nothing but old clothes, read only a few old books, without the least regard to the opinions of the learned, and did not take in a newspaper. On the wall of his habitation he inscribed with a piece of charcoal a quotation from De Sénancour to this effect: “In the world a man lives in his own age; in solitude, in all the ages.” I observed in him the effects of a lonely life, and he greatly aided my observations by frankly communicating his experiences. That solitude had become inexpressibly dear to him, but he admitted one evil consequence of it, which was an increasing unfitness for ordinary society, though he cherished a few tried friendships, and was grateful to those who loved him and could enter into his humor. He had acquired a horror of towns and crowds, not from nervousness, but because he felt imprisoned and impeded in his thinking, which needed the depths of the forest, the venerable trees, the communication with primæval nature, from which he drew a mysterious yet necessary nourishment for the peculiar activity of his mind. I found that his case answered very exactly to the sentence he quoted from De Sénancour; he lived less in his own age than others do, but he had a fine compensation in a strangely vivid understanding of other ages. Like De Sénancour, he had a strong sense of the transitoriness of what is transitory, and a passionate preference for all that the human mind conceives to be relatively or absolutely permanent. This trait was very observable in his talk about the peoples of antiquity, and in the delight he took in dwelling rather upon everything which they had in common with ourselves than on those differences which are more obvious to the modern spirit. His temper was grave and earnest, but unfailingly cheerful, and entirely free from any tendency to bitterness. The habits of his life would have been most unfavorable to the development of a man of business, of a statesman, of a leader in practical enterprise, but they were certainly not unfavorable to the growth of a tranquil and comprehensive intellect, capable of “just judgment and high-hearted patriotism.” He had not the spirit of the newspapers, he did not live intensely in the present, but he had the spirit which has animated great poets, and saints, and sages, and far-seeing teachers of humanity. Not in vain had he lived alone with Nature, not in vain had he watched in solemn twilights and witnessed many a dawn. There is, there is a strength that comes to us in solitude from that shadowy, awful Presence that frivolous crowds repel!

22 August 2013

The Habits of Highly Effective People

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (London: Macmillan, 1887), pp. 152-153:
Little books are occasionally published in which we are told that it is a sin to lose a minute. From the intellectual point of view this doctrine is simply stupid. What the Philistines call wasted time is often rich in the most varied experience to the intelligent. If all that we have learned in idle moments could be suddenly expelled from our minds by some chemical process, it is probable that they would be worth very little afterwards. What, after such a process, would have remained to Shakespeare, Scott, Cervantes, Thackeray, Dickens, Hogarth, Goldsmith, Molière? When these great students of human nature were learning most, the sort of people who write the foolish little books just alluded to would have wanted to send them home to the dictionary or the desk. Töpffer and Claude Tillier, both men of delicate and observant genius, attached the greatest importance to hours of idleness. Töpffer said that a year of downright loitering was a desirable element in a liberal education; whilst Claude Tillier went even farther, and boldly affirmed that “le temps le mieux employé est celui que l’on perd [the time best spent is the time that one loses].”
Let us not think too contemptuously of the miscalculators of time, since not one of us is exempt from their folly. We have all made miscalculations, or more frequently have simply omitted calculation altogether, preferring childish illusion to a manly examination of realities; and afterwards as life advances another illusion steals over us not less vain than the early one, but bitter as that was sweet. We now begin to reproach ourselves with all the opportunities that have been neglected, and now our folly is to imagine that we might have done impossible wonders if we had only exercised a little resolution. We might have been thorough classical scholars, and spoken all the great modern languages, and written immortal books, and made a colossal fortune. Miscalculations again, and these the most imbecile of all; for the youth who forgets to reason in the glow of happiness and hope, is wiser than the man who overestimates what was once possible that he may embitter the days which remain to him.

21 August 2013

The Indirect Utilities of Knowledge

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (London: Macmillan, 1887), pp. 95-98:
Whatever you study, some one will consider that particular study a foolish waste of time.
If you were to abandon successively every subject of intellectual labour which had, in its turn, been condemned by some adviser as useless, the result would be simple intellectual nakedness. The classical languages, to begin with, have long been considered useless by the majority of practical people — and pray, what to shopkeepers, doctors, attorneys, artists, can be the use of the higher mathematics? And if these studies, which have been conventionally classed as serious studies, are considered unnecessary notwithstanding the tremendous authority of custom, how much the more are those studies exposed to a like contempt which belong to the category of accomplishments! What is the use of drawing, for it ends in a worthless sketch? Why should we study music when after wasting a thousand hours the amateur cannot satisfy the ear? A quoi bon modern languages when the accomplishment only enables us to call a waiter in French or German who is sure to answer us in English? And what, when it is not your trade, can be the good of dissecting animals or plants?
To all questionings of this kind there is but one reply. We work for culture. We work to enlarge the intelligence, and to make it a better and more effective instrument. This is our main purpose; but it may be added that even for our special labours it is always difficult to say beforehand exactly what will turn out in the end to be most useful. 
More than all other men have authors reason to appreciate the indirect utilities of knowledge that is apparently irrelevant. Who can tell what knowledge will be of most use to them? Even the very greatest of authors are indebted to miscellaneous reading, often in several different languages, for the suggestion of their most original works, and for the light which has kindled many a shining thought of their own. And authors who seem to have less need than others of an outward help, poets whose compositions might appear to be chiefly inventive and emotional, novelists who are free from the restraints and the researches of the historian, work up what they know into what they write; so that if you could remove every line which is based on studies outside the strict limits of their art, you would blot out half their compositions.

20 August 2013

A Tame Uniformity in Our Domiciles

An anonymous author in "Old Houses," The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. XIII (January-June, 1866), 611-616 (at 611):
To have to live in a row of houses built by contract, all at the same time, and all exactly alike, in which it is impossible to tell your own dwelling, except by looking at the number on the door, has always seemed to me one of the chief objections to life in a town, and one of the most pathetic and aggravating of the minor troubles of humanity. Mr. Podsnap, or any other type of the respectable, may think me a monomaniac — perhaps I am.
I hold that by submitting to, or worse still, by rejoicing in, a tame uniformity in our domiciles, we, of our own accord, deprive ourselves of one of the highest privileges of reason, and degrade ourselves by submission to one of the necessities under which instinct labours. Bees build their cells by exact rule and predetermined angle, a mavis's nest is recognized as one all the world over, and probably has not altered by one iota in its architecture since time began. Rabbit-burrows and mole-galleries have gained nothing in their construction from the experience of hundreds of generations. To man alone is the privilege given of impressing not merely a generic or specific character, but a stamp of individual peculiarity on his home.

19 August 2013

The Most Comical of Comedies

Friedrich Nietzsche, "We Philologists" (§12), tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 8 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), p. 116:
Most men are obviously in the world accidentally: no necessity of a higher kind is seen in them. They work at this and that; their talents are average. How strange! The manner in which they live shows that they think very little of themselves: they merely esteem themselves in so far as they waste their energy on trifles (whether these be mean or frivolous desires, or the trashy concerns of their everyday calling). In the so-called life's calling, which everyone must choose, we may perceive a touching modesty on the part of mankind. They practically admit in choosing thus: "We are called upon to serve and to be of advantage to our equals — the same remark applies to our neighbour and to his neighbour; so everyone serves somebody else; no one is carrying out the duties of his calling for his own sake, but always for the sake of others: and thus we are like geese which support one another by the one leaning against the other. When the aim of each one of us is centred in another, then we have all no object in existing; and this 'existing for others' is the most comical of comedies." 

16 August 2013

A Heap of Unfulfilled Ambitions

Richard King (pseudonym of Richard King Huskinson, 1879-1947), With Silent Friends (London: Bodley Head, 1917), pp. 106-107:
What a sad story it would make were we all to keep a diary, on one side of which we wrote what we intended doing, and upon the other what we actually did. Most of us set forth when we are young with the enthusiasm to remove mountains. Alas! as we look back on our lives, we realise only too clearly that the most we ever did was to kick over a molehill. It is all heartrendingly disappointing. There seems to be something in Destiny — or does it lie within our own natures? — which comes between us and all our glorious aims, leaving us nothing but a heap of unfulfilled ambitions at the end. So few of us can go straight ahead along the pathway which we feel our lives ought to lead ; we are always being turned from our intentions by other people, or by love, or by pity, or by hatred, or by loss of money or health. Thus, most of us become mere thistledown, blown hither and thither in the wind, to settle at last on a desolate sand dune. And we feel that we ought to have been such rockets! Each one of us feels he ought to have been a rocket. So often disappointment makes us bitter, or hard, or merely callous. Our bad intentions go as a rule unpunished; just as our good ones usually go without reward. This lack of Justice in life is one of life's greatest mysteries. It even puzzles those who believe in God. We are always finding excuses or reasons for acts of Providence which, to our own inner conscience, are the reverse of what is Just and Right. But Providence is never shamed. It still goes on gaily, allowing the square peg to die in the round hole, the innocent to suffer for the guilty, the good for the bad, the weak for the strong, those of good intentions for those who never had any at all. 

15 August 2013

The Quest Will Continue

William Dana Orcutt in the forward to the third edition of In Quest of the Perfect Book: Reminiscences & Reflections of a Bookman (Boston: Little, Brown, 1926):
A writer may be born who combines the wisdom of Solomon, the power of analysis of Henry James, the understanding of Plato, the philosophy of Emerson, and the style of Montaigne. This manuscript may be transformed into a book by a printer who can look beyond his cases of type, and interpret what Aldus, and Jenson, and Etienne, and Plantin saw, with the artistic temperament of William Morris and the restraint of Cobden-Sanderson. There may be a binding that represents the apotheosis of Italian, French, and English elegance. A reader may be developed through the evolution of the ages competent to appreciate the contents and the physical format of such a volume, "for what we really seek is a comparison of experiences."
Until then the Quest will continue, going constantly onward and upward. Its lure will keep us from slipping back upon false satisfaction and a placid but — shall I say? — a dangerous contemplation of the humanistic idyll.
This scan of an earlier edition seems to be a little clearer than the one above.

14 August 2013

Strong Meat for Mature Minds

Harry Lyman Koopman, The Booklover and His Books (Boston: The Boston Book Company, 1917), pp. 68-69:
Byron speaks of reading and hating Horace as a schoolboy, but no normal person can hate Horace any more than he can hate Washington Irving. It is possible, however, that pupils who have to read Irving's "Sketch Book" with the fear of a college entrance examination before their minds may have no affection even for him. So some of us may have something to unlearn in our reading of Vergil and Horace, for we must approach their works as strong meat for mature minds. Vergil's theme is nothing less than the glorification of the Roman state through its divinely ordered and heroic founding. School children seldom read more than the six books of the "Aeneid" required for college; but the other six, though of much less varied interest, are necessary for the appreciation of the poem. The whole is a work that no one can afford to pass over in his search for the burning words that keep alive the thought of other ages. Very different in theme and manner is the poetry of Horace. He is the most modern of all the men of old, far more modern than our own Puritan ancestors. His mixture of grace and shrewdness, poetic charm and worldly wisdom, we find nowhere else. The bulk of his work is not large, and this fact, as in the case of Gray and Keats and Poe, is rather in his favor, because the reader can easily become familiar with it all, though then he will sigh for more. Horace wears well; the older we grow the better we like him. He has love songs for youth, political poems for maturity, and satires for old age. After we have lived with him for half a century he becomes more real to us than most of our acquaintances in the flesh. Roman literature is not without other great names to attract the student; but these two must not be overlooked by the most general or the most selective reader. 

13 August 2013

To the Reader

The epigraph to Henry Stevens' Recollections of Mr. James Lenox of New York and the Formation of His Library (London: H. Stevens & Son, 1886):
Who faulteth not, liveth not; who mendeth faults is commended: The Printer hath faulted a little: it may be the author oversighted more. Thy paine (Reader) is the least; then erre not thou most by misconstruing or sharpe censuring; least thou be more uncharitable, then either of them hath been heedlesse: God amend and guide us all.
— Robartes on Tythes 4° Camb. 1613.  

12 August 2013


Henry Stevens, Who Spoils Our New English Books: Asked and Answered (London: Chiswick Press, 1884), pp. 1-3:
The manufacture of a beautiful and durable book costs little if anything more, it is believed, than it does to manufacture a clumsy and unsightly one. Good taste, skill and severe training are as requisite and necessary in the proper production of books as in any other of the fine arts. The well-recognized 'lines of beauty' are, in our judgment, as essential and well defined in the one case as in the other.
Books are both our luxuries and our daily bread. They have become to our lives and happiness prime necessities. They are our trusted favourites, our guardians, our confidential advisers, and the safe consumers of our leisure. They cheer us in poverty, and comfort us in the misery of affluence. They absorb the effervescence of impetuous youth, and while away the tedium of age. You may not teach ignorance to a youth who carries a favourite book in his pocket; and to a man who masters his appetites a good book is a talisman which insures him against the dangers of overspeed, idleness, and shallowness.
Why then let our books, like some of our manufactures, run to false cheapness and to shoddy? and Who are their Shoddimites? are our questions to-day. The disagreeable fact that our books are deteriorating in quality is assumed for the present and taken for granted. The fault exists and is daily becoming more and more manifest. We do not just now charge much dishonesty to any particular party, but content ourselves with naming the adulteration, and hinting that in all probability the fault lies somewhere between the uncritical consumer and the untrained manufacturer. Let both parties and their intermediates or coadjutors look to their laurels.

8 August 2013

A Few Baskets of Strawberries

William Mathews (1818-1909), "Study of the Modern Languages," in Hours with Men and Books (Chicago: S.C. Griggs, 1878), p.265:
The question is not whether a knowledge of French and German is desirable per se, but whether it is not too dearly purchased. Is it worth the heavy tax which our youth pay for it? Cannot the weary days, weeks, months, and even years, which are spent in acquiring what, after all, is usually but the merest smattering of those tongues, be more profitably spent upon English literature and the sciences? There is hardly any subject upon which so much illusion prevails as upon the supposed ease with which a modern language can be mastered. We hear it daily remarked that French and Italian are very easy, and that German, though presenting some difficulties, is by no means hard to acquire. Now the truth, to which, sooner or later, every student is forced to open his eyes, is, that the acquisition of any language, as Mr. Lincoln said of the crushing of the Rebellion, is "a big job." The mastering of a foreign tongue, even the easiest, is the work, not of a day, but of years, and years of stern, unremitting toil.
Id, p. 268:
He is a poor economist who looks only at the value of an acquisition without counting the cost. If a young man can begin his studies early and continue them till his twenty-first year, by all means let him study French and German. But in no case would we have him study those tongues at the expense of utter ignorance or the merest surface-knowledge of his own language and its literature, and of the physical sciences. That the two latter branches of knowledge are far more essential than the former to both his success and happiness, we cannot doubt. Unfortunately, the majority of our young men are compelled to plunge into business so early that they are forced to elect between the two acquisitions; they cannot have both. For such persons to choose the French and German, and neglect the sciences and their own noble tongue and its literature, is as absurd as it would be for a laborer to stint himself all the year in meat or bread that he may enjoy a few baskets of strawberries in April. We yield to no one in our admiration of Montaigne, Pascal, Molière, Cuvier, and Sainte-Beuve, or of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Richter, and Heine; but we do, nevertheless, echo most heartily the words of Thomas DeQuincey, himself a consummate linguist, when he declares that it is a pitiable spectacle to see young persons neglecting the golden treasures of their own literature, and wasting their time on German, French and Italian authors, comparatively obscure, and immeasurably inferior in quality.

7 August 2013

Bathing as a Rite

Havelock Ellis, Impressions and Comments (London: Constable, 1914), pp. 210-211:
The act of bathing in the sea, rightly considered, is a sacred act, and is so recognised in many parts of the world. It should not be made as commonplace as a mere hygienic tubbing, nor be carried out by a crowd of clothed persons in muddy water. No profane unfriendly eye should be near, the sun must be bright, the air soft, the green transparent sea should ripple smoothly over the rocks, as I see it below me now, welling rhythmically into rock-basins and plashing out with a charge of bubbling air and a delicious murmur of satisfied physiological relief. Enter the sea in such a manner, on such a day, and the well-tempered water greets the flesh so lovingly that it opens like a flower with no contraction of hostile resistance. The discomforting sensation of the salt in the nostrils becomes a delightful and invigorating fragrance as it blends with the exhilaration of this experience. So to bathe is more than to bathe. It is a rite of which the physical delight is a symbol of the spiritual significance of an act of Communion with Nature, to be stored up with one's best experiences of Fine Living. 

5 August 2013


Friedrich Nietzsche, "We Philologists" (§90), tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 8 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), p. 152:
The following is one way of carrying on classical studies, and a frequent one: a man throws himself thoughtlessly, or is thrown, into some special branch or other, whence he looks to the right and left and sees a great deal that is good and new. Then, in some unguarded moment, he asks himself: "But what the devil has all this to do with me?" In the meantime he has grown old and has become accustomed to it all; and therefore he continues in his rut — just as in the case of marriage.

1 August 2013

As a Bird Sings

Samuel Butler, The Note Books of Samuel Butler (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1917), p. 170:
Literature is an art; article-writing, when a man is paid for it, is a trade and none the worse for that; but pot-boilers are one thing and genuine pictures are another. People have indeed been paid for some of the most genuine pictures ever painted, and so with music, and so with literature itself — hard-and-fast lines ever cut the fingers of those who draw them — but, as a general rule, most lasting art has been poorly paid, so far as money goes, till the artist was near the end of his time, and, whether money passed or no, we may be sure that it was not thought of. Such work is done as a bird sings — for the love of the thing; it is persevered in as long as body and soul can be kept together, whether there be pay or no, and perhaps better if there be no pay.
Related posts:
The Sons of Joy
Books for Refuge

30 July 2013

Only the Magnificent

Daniel Berkeley Updike, Printing Types; Their History, Forms, and Use, Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1922), p. 174:
[The type designer Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813)] cared nothing about printing as a means to popular instruction. He did not despise the masses — he forgot all about them! He was a court printer, existing by the patronage of the Lucky Few. His editions were intended to be livres d'apparat. He not alone saw no harm in making them so, but the bigger and more pretentious they were, the better he liked them. In fact, he openly said so, and told Renouard, the French publisher, "Je ne veux que du magnifique, et je ne travaille pas pour le vulgaire des lecteurs." [I want only the magnificent, and I do not work for the common herd of readers.]
Volume I of Updike's book can be found here.

An example of Bodoni's Roman font (1775)