27 February 2015

Scripta Manent

From the cover of Le Livre, ed. Octave Uzanne (Paris:  A. Quantin, 1881):

26 February 2015

Socially Bankrupt

W. Compton Leith (pseudonym of Ormonde Maddock Dalton, 1866-1945), Apologia Diffidentis (London: John Lane, 1917), p. 178:
I have abandoned social obligations because I am unfitted to perform them well, and society high and low exists by their cheerful fulfilment. But I no longer rail at social law or decline to see anything but evil in conventions devised by the wisdom and refinement of centuries. If I refuse invitations and leave calls unpaid, it is because I am socially bankrupt: were I solvent I should redeem all debts.

22 February 2015

Life Is a Debt, Not a Gift

Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, tr. R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp, Vol. III (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1909), pp. 390-391:
Life is given out to be a gift, while it is evident that every one would have declined such a gift if he could have seen it and tested it beforehand; just as Lessing admired the understanding of his son, who, because he had absolutely declined to enter life, had to be forcibly brought into it with the forceps, but was scarcely there when he hurried away from it again. On the other hand, it is then well said that life should be, from one end to the other, only a lesson; to which, however, any one might reply: “For this very reason I wish I had been left in the peace of the all-sufficient nothing, where I would have had no need of lessons or of anything else.” If indeed it should now be added that he must one day give an account of every hour of his life, he would be more justified in himself demanding an account of why he had been transferred from that rest into such a questionable, dark, anxious, and painful situation. To this, then, we are led by false views. For human existence, far from bearing the character of a gift, has entirely the character of a debt that has been contracted. The calling in of this debt appears in the form of the pressing wants, tormenting desires, and endless misery established through this existence. As a rule, the whole lifetime is devoted to the paying off of this debt; but this only meets the interest. The payment of the capital takes place through death. And when was this debt contracted? At the begetting.
cf. Life Is a Loan, Death the Repayment

19 February 2015

Making Interest

Henry James, letter to H. G. Wells (July 10, 1915), The Letters of Henry James, ed. Percy Lubbock, Vol. II (London:  Macmillian & Co., 1920), p. 508:
It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
Adam Phillips, "On Interest," London Review of Books (June 20, 1996):
People come for psychoanalysis when they are feeling under-nourished; and this – depending on one’s psychoanalytic preference – is either because what they have been given wasn’t good enough or because there is something wrong with their capacity for transformation. In [Henry] James’s terms, they are the failed artists of their own lives. They have been unable for whatever reason to make something sufficiently sustaining out of what was supposed to nourish them. They cannot make interest; the kind of interest, James intimates, that might make one love life.

17 February 2015

Valuable Property

George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), p. 212:
The purchase of a manuscript during the fourteenth century was attended with almost as many formalities and precautions as are to-day considered necessary for the transfer of a piece of real estate. The dealer making the sale was obliged to give to the purchaser guarantees to the effect, first, that he was himself the owner or the duly authorised representative of the owner of the work; and, secondly, that the text of this was complete and correct, and as security for these guarantees he pledged his goods, and sometimes even his person. As a single example of a transaction illustrating this practice, I quote a contract cited by Du Breuil [1]. This bears date November, 1332, and sets forth that a certain Geoffrey de Saint Léger, a duly qualified clerc libraire, acknowledges and confesses that he has sold, ceded, and transferred to the noble gentleman Messire Gérard de Montagu, Avocat du Roi au Parlement (counsellor at the royal court), all right, title, and interest in a work entitled Speculum Historiale in consuetudines Parisienses, contained in four volumes bound in red leather. The consideration named is forty livres Parisian, the equivalent, according to the tables of de Wailly, of 1013 francs. The vendor pledges as security for the obligation under the contract all his worldly goods, together with his own person (tous et chacun de ses biens, et guarantie de son corps même), and the contract is attested before two notaries.

[1] Jacques Du Breuil, Le Théâtre des antiquités de Paris (Paris: Claude de la Tour, 1612), p. 608.

12 February 2015

As Stupid an Operation as Can Be Imagined

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life (London: Macmillan, 1887), p. 186:
To advance from a hundred pounds to a thousand is not an intellectual advance, and there is no intellectual interest in the addition of a cipher at the bankers'. Simply to accumulate money that you are never to use is, from the intellectual point of view, as stupid an operation as can be imagined. We observe, too, that the great accumulators, the men who are gifted by nature with the true instinct, are not usually such persons as we feel any ambition to become. Their faculties are concentrated on one point, and that point, as it seems to us, of infinitely little importance. We cannot see that it signifies much to the intellectual well-being of humanity that John Smith should be worth his million when he dies, since we know quite well that John Smith's mind will be just as ill-furnished then as it is now. In places where much money is made we easily acquire a positive disgust for it, and the curate seems the most distinguished gentleman in the community, with his old black coat and his seventy pounds a year. We come to hate money-matters when we find that they exclude all thoughtful and disinterested conversation, and we fly to the society of people with fixed incomes, not large enough for much saving, to escape the perpetual talk about investments. Our happiest hours have been spent with poor scholars, and artists, and men of science, whose words remain in the memory and make us rich indeed.
Related posts:

11 February 2015

The White Birds of Recollections

George Moore, Hail and Farewell, Vol. I (London: William Heinemann, 1919), p. 321:
Death is in such strange contradiction to life that it is no matter for wonder that we recoil from it, and turn to remembrances, and find recompense in perceiving that those we have loved live in our memories as intensely as if they were still before our eyes; and it would seem, therefore, that we should garner and treasure our past and forbear to regret partings with too much grief, however dear our friends may be; for by parting from them all their imperfections will pass out of sight, and they will become dearer and nearer to us. The present is no more than a little arid sand dribbling through the neck of an hour-glass; but the past may be compared to a shrine in the coigne of some sea-cliff, whither the white birds of recollections come to roost and rest awhile, and fly away again into the darkness. But the shrine is never deserted. Far away up from the horizon's line other white birds come, wheeling and circling, to take the place of those that have left and are leaving.
A related post: A Sure Investment

10 February 2015


Anthony Daniels, "France's 'Submission'," New Criterion (February 15, 2015):
Bravery and excitement have given way to comfort and convenience; degeneration is the inevitable and unavoidable result.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Land of Cockaigne (1567)

A related post: The Melancholy Truth

6 February 2015

Ars Longa Vita Brevis

Alex Colville (1920-2013), quoted in Mark Cheetham, Alex Colville; The Observer Observed (Toronto: ECW Press, 1994), p. 18:
I want to live thousands of miles away from other artists. I hate the idea of artists meeting and talking. I don't care what they are doing, I just don't care.
Id., p. 21:
If you don't like Detroit, get out of Detroit, I would say. People should exercise their wills in these terms more fully perhaps than they do.
Id., p. 33 (concerning his time as a war artist):
In a certain sense I was writing letters home for these people, depicting their lives, the dugouts, the tanks, where they lived. I was making a kind of record. There is always this element in art. 'Life is short, but art is long.' A lot of these people were killed. They would be very interested in what I was doing, kind of astonished at it in a way.
Id., p. 37:
Normally people who are in the arts slot themselves in with what I would call the proletariat, and I don't. People find this baffling, and maybe irritating.
Id., p. 39 (on his time in Berlin):
I didn't really know what to think about the Germans... But I have a feeling they've faced certain things that other people haven't... They were the first to find out how terrible people — I mean they and others — can be. The Germans have this feeling, and I think they are right, that things can go to hell in a minute. Canadians are unbelievably naive about their capacity for evil.
Id., p. 47 (on leaving his job at Mount Allison):
I decided in February 1963 that I could not stay in a university because I found some of my colleagues literally intolerable. 
Id., p. 59:
Life is characterised by its lack of permanence. Art, I think, tries to compensate for this. Art tries to be permanent, tries to extract from the transitory, that which is durably meaningful.
Id., p. 76:
Painting should neither be fun nor primarily a means of self-expression. I regard paintings as things produced not to relieve the artist, not to serve him, but to serve other people who will look at them.
Id., p. 96:
'What's it all about?'; 'What's happening?'; 'What is life like?' Of course there are no specific answers to these questions, perhaps no answers at all, but people who work with this sort of question in mind do tend, I suggest, to produce work which is more interesting to some people who do not have a special interest in the visual arts.

Alex Colville, Main Street (1979)

Some video and audio clips of Colville:

4 February 2015


Paul Charles Dubois, L'Éducation de soi-même (Paris: Masson, 1909), p. 62 (my translation):
Freedom is not possible in a finite being, called into being without having desired it, limited in the length of his days, incapable of achieving perfection, always dependent on the environment in which he lives, and on the numerous influences that act on his body and his mind and which one might call educative.
La liberté n'est pas possible dans un être fini, appelé à l'existence sans l'avoir désiré, borné dans la durée de ses jours, incapable d'arriver à la perfection, toujours dépendant du milieu où il vit, de ces influences multiples qui agissent sur son corps et sur son esprit et qu'on peut qualifier d'éducatives.

30 January 2015

Pages and Paper

Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard, (New York: W.H. Wise, 1927), p. 42:
[A]s an authority on books Erasmus can still be read. He it was who fixed the classic page margin  twice as wide at the top as on the inside; twice as wide at the outside as at the top; twice as wide at the bottom as the side. And any printer who varies from this displays his ignorance of proportion.
Elbert Hubbard, Selected Writings of Elbert Hubbard, Vol. 9 (New York: W. H. Wise, 1922), p. 255:
A book on cheap paper does not convince. It is not prized, it is like a wheezy doctor with pigtail tobacco breath, who needs a manicure. A book should not only be true, it must be beautiful in order to help you on your way to Elysium, where there are no scamps and where lives Erasmus, rent-free, because he supplies fun and instruction for the boarders.
Villanova University has digitized Hubbard's magazine The Fra.

29 January 2015

Doves Type

T. J. Cobden-Sanderson's Doves Type has been recovered from the bed of the Thames:

Image from www.typespec.co.uk
More here.

28 January 2015

A Tendency to Sloth

Friedrich Nietzsche, "Schopenhauer as Educator," Thoughts Out of Season, tr. Adrian Collins, The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. Oscar Levy, Vol. II, Part II (London: T.N. Foulis, 1910), pp. 103-104:
When the traveller, who had seen many countries and nations and continents, was asked what common attribute he had found everywhere existing among men, he answered, "They have a tendency to sloth." Many may think that the fuller truth would have  been, "They are all timid." They hide themselves behind "manners" and "opinions." At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvellously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time. He knows this, but hides it like an evil conscience; — and why? From fear of his neighbour, who looks for the latest conventionalities in him, and is wrapped up in them himself. But what is it that forces the man to fear his neighbour, to think and act with his herd, and not seek his own joy? Shyness perhaps, in a few rare cases, but in the majority it is idleness, the "taking things easily," in a word the "tendency to sloth," of which the traveller spoke. He was right; men are more slothful than timid, and their greatest fear is of the burdens that an uncompromising honesty and nakedness of speech and action would lay on them.
Friedrich Nietzsche, "Schopenhauer als Erzieher," Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, Nietzsche's Werke, Bd. I (Leipzig: C. G. Naumann, 1899), p. 387:
Jener Reisende, der viel Länder und Völker und mehrere Erdteile gesehen hatte und gefragt wurde, welche Eigenschaft der Menschen er überall wiedergefunden habe, sagte: sie haben einen Hang zur Faulheit. Manchen wird es dünken, er hätte richtiger und gültiger gesagt: sie sind alle furchtsam. Sie verstecken sich unter Sitten und Meinungen. Im Grunde weiß jeder Mensch recht wohl, daß er nur einmal, als ein Unikum, auf der Welt ist und daß kein noch so seltsamer Zufall zum zweitenmal ein so wunderlich buntes Mancherlei zum Einerlei, wie er es ist, zusammenschütteln wird: er weiß es, aber verbirgt es wie ein böses Gewissen – weshalb? Aus Furcht vor dem Nachbar, welcher die Konvention fordert und sich selbst mit ihr verhüllt. Aber was ist es, was den einzelnen zwingt, den Nachbar zu fürchten, herdenmäßig zu denken und zu handeln und seiner selbst nicht froh zu sein? Schamhaftigkeit vielleicht bei einigen und seltnen. Bei den allermeisten ist es Bequemlichkeit, Trägheit, kurz jener Hang zur Faulheit, von dem der Reisende sprach. Er hat Recht: die Menschen sind noch fauler als furchtsam und fürchten gerade am meisten die Beschwerden, welche ihnen eine unbedingte Ehrlichkeit und Nacktheit aufbürden würde.

26 January 2015

Sign for an Office Cubicle

George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), pp. 153-154:
Isidore, Bishop of Seville (c. 560-636), possessed probably the largest collection of books at that time in Europe. It was contained in fourteen presses or armaria, each of which was ornamented with a bust and inscribed with verses. The series of verses concludes with the following notice addressed ad interventorem, a term which may be interpreted a talkative intruder:
Non patitur quemquam coram se scriba loquentem; 
Non est hic quod agas, garrule, perge foras. 

(The scribe allows no one to speak in his presence; there is nothing for you to do here, chatterbox, you had better go outside.)

23 January 2015

Justice Is the Moon

Arnold Bennett, The Human Machine (New York: George.H. Doran, 1911), pp. 46-47:
You remark sagely to your child: 'No, my child, you cannot have that moon, and you will accomplish nothing by crying for it. Now, here is this beautiful box of bricks, by means of which you may amuse yourself while learning many wonderful matters and improving your mind. You must try to be content with what you have, and to make the best of it. If you had the moon you wouldn't be any happier.' Then you lie awake half the night repining because the last post has brought a letter to the effect that 'the Board cannot entertain your application for,' etc. You say the two cases are not alike. They are not. Your child has never heard of Epictetus. On the other hand, justice is the moon. At your age you surely know that. 'But the Directors ought to have granted my application,' you insist. Exactly! I agree. But we are not in a universe of oughts. You have a special apparatus within you for dealing with a universe where oughts are flagrantly disregarded. And you are not using it. You are lying awake, keeping your wife awake, injuring your health, injuring hers, losing your dignity and your cheerfulness. Why? Because you think that these antics and performances will influence the Board? Because you think that they will put you into a better condition for dealing with your environment to-morrow? Not a bit. Simply because the [mental] machine is at fault.

21 January 2015

Frustrated Desire and Disappointment

Edwyn Bevan, Stoics and Sceptics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), p. 70:
The Stoics, I think, saw with perfect truth that if you were going to allow any least entrance of love and pity into the breast, you admitted something whose measure you could not control, and might just as well give up the idea of inner tranquillity at once. Where love is, action cannot be without desire; the action of love has eminently regard to fruit, in the sense of some result beyond itself — the one thing that seems to matter is whether the loved person really is helped by your action. Of course you run the risk of frustrated desire and disappointment. The Stoic sage was never frustrated and never disappointed.

20 January 2015


Fredegarius Scholasticus, c. 600, quoted in George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), p. 128:
The world is in its decrepitude. Intellectual activity is dead, and the ancient writers have no successors.

19 January 2015

Blessed Richard of Arnsberg

George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), p. 11:
It was in the monasteries that were preserved such fragments of the classic literature as had escaped the general devastation of Italy; and it was to the labours of the monks of the West, and particularly to the labours of the monks of S. Benedict, that was due the preservation for the Middle Ages and for succeeding generations of the remembrance and the influence of the literature of classic times. For a period of more than six centuries, the safety of the literary heritage of Europe, one may say of the world, depended upon the scribes of a few dozen scattered monasteries. 
Id., p. 65:
In the monastery of Wedinghausen, near Arnsberg in Westphalia, there was a skilled and zealous scribe named Richard, an Englishman, who spent many years in adding to the library of the institution. Twenty years after his death [in 1190], when the rest of his body had crumbled into dust, the right hand, with which this holy work had been accomplished, was found intact, and has since been preserved under the altar as a holy relic.
From the Kloster Wedinghausen web site:

Richard of Arnsberg's right hand
Related posts:

15 January 2015

Exceptions to the Rule

Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, tr. Mrs. Humphry Ward (New York: A. L. Burt, c. 1895), pp. 338-339:
Life rushes on — so much the worse for the weak and the stragglers. As soon as a man's tendo Achillis gives way he finds himself trampled under foot by the young, the eager, the voracious. "Vae victis, vae debilibus!" yells the crowd, which in its turn is storming the goods of this world. Every man is always in some other man's way, since, however small he may make himself, he still occupies some space, and however little he may envy or possess, he is still sure to be envied and his goods coveted by some one else. Mean world! — peopled by a mean race! To console ourselves we must think of the exceptions — of the noble and generous souls. There are such. What do the rest matter!

13 January 2015

Never Suffered

Paul Léautaud, first conversation with Robert Mallet, Entretiens avec Rober Mallet (Paris: Mercure de France, 1951), pp. 27-28 (my translation):
RM: When you came to Paris, how much were you living on, exactly?

PL: I lived on 50 francs a month.

RM: That was very little.

PL: I never noticed, I do not know what poverty is. I do know know what it is! The word poverty itself has never come to my mind for me to use it.

RM: You do not...

PL: Poverty, I do not think about it, I have never suffered from it. I have never suffered from it!

RM: But still, one must have a minimum on which to live.

PL: For eight years I lived on a sort of cheese they call Bondon, I don't know if you are familiar with it.

RM: Yes, it's the cheese from Neufchâtel-en-Bray.

PL: This cheese cost four sous. Well, for eight years, I lunched and dined on four-sous cheese, a piece of bread, a glass of water, a little coffee, and I never suffered from it!