11 May 2015

A Permanent Loss of Happiness

Thomas Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes (London: Osgood, McIlvaine & Co., 1895), p. 280:
There are disappointments which wring us, and there are those which inflict a wound whose mark we bear to our graves. Such are so keen that no future gratification of the same desire can ever obliterate them: they become registered as a permanent loss of happiness. 
This quote is one of the first selected by Alfred Hyatt in The Pocket Thomas Hardy (London: Chatto & Windus, 1906).

8 May 2015

5 May 2015


Bruce Rogers (1870-1957), quoted in Paul Bennett, Bruce Rogers of Indiana (Providence: Domesday Press, 1936), pp. 11-12:
I went at bookmaking somewhat as the French tackle a problem in other fields of design. They like to make models, do a few things and then change their style. I had no special principles, except to make as good a job as I knew how to get done. If you speak about my 'style' you will have to say it's a sort of eclecticism. There's some good in practically all styles. The thing, as I saw it, was to take the different periods and do the best I could with them, to get the best out of them.

I don't particularly care for so-called 'originality' in books. Little touches of the designer's personality are bound to creep in, but books should primarily embody the quality of the text, the author's personality if possible; and not be merely a medium for the printer's self-expression. Perhaps the secret of book-making development is to go on doing the thing over and over, with improvement and variation in details.

2 May 2015

Royal Birth

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, III vi, tr. H. R. James (London: Elliot Stock, 1897), p. 115:
Then, again, who does not see how empty, how foolish, is the fame of noble birth? Why, if the nobility is based on renown, the renown is another's! For, truly, nobility seems to be a sort of reputation coming from the merits of ancestors. But if it is the praise which brings renown, of necessity it is they who are praised that are famous. Wherefore, the fame of another clothes thee not with splendour if thou hast none of thine own.
The opening pages of this section from a copy of De consolatione philosophie on Gallica, with commentary by St. Thomas Aquinas (Lyon: Johannes Faber, c. 1500):

A related post: Only Folly and Shame

24 April 2015

A More Refined Race

Angelica Garnett, Deceived With Kindness (London: Pimlico, 1995), p. 69:
Vanessa [Bell] was an ardent Francophile and believed that the French were vastly superior to the English in all departments of practical life: better mechanics, electricians, dressmakers, cooks, better at inventing domestic gadgets, at making easels, stretchers, canvases, and paints. So sensible to have paperback books, to dress their children in black pinafores and allow them to stay up late, to have invented the siesta and go to market every day returning with such delicious bread, to have invented champagne, Petit Larousse and mayonnaise. She could not say their plumbing was as good as that of the English (those were the days when there was often no more than a hole in the ground and usually a smell of human excrement near one's picnic site), but in every other way they were a more refined race, not least in their sympathy for artists.
A related post: The French

22 April 2015

A Barbaric Act

Theodore Dalrymple, The Pleasure of Thinking (London: Gibson Square Books, 2012), pp. 36-37:
Because of the importance, one might almost say the sacred quality, of books in the development and transmission of our civilisation, the wilful destruction of books has always appeared a barbaric act. If we saw a man deliberately tearing a book to shreds, even one without any great value, a trashy novel say, we would think him a brute. But the destruction of books en masse by the public authorities has never augured well for civilization, let alone for freedom.
I am reminded of the federal government's purge of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries last year. See here and here.

17 April 2015

Don't Look Back

William Osler, A Way of Life (London: Constable, 1913), pp. 27-28
As a vaccine against all morbid poisons left in the system by the infections of yesterday, I offer "a way of life." "Undress," as George Herbert says, "your soul at night," not by self-examination, but by shedding, as you do your garments, the daily sins whether of omission or of commission, and you will wake a free man, with a new life. To look back, except on rare occasions for stock-taking, is to risk the fate of Lot's wife. Many a man is handicapped in his course by a cursed combination of retro- and intro-spection, the mistakes of yesterday paralysing the efforts of to-day, the worries of the past hugged to his destruction, and the worm Regret allowed to canker the very heart of his life.
Thomas Eakins, Retrospection (1880)
A related post: Forget, Don't Forgive

14 April 2015

Systematically Ascetic or Heroic

William James, Principles Of Psychology, Vol. 1 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1918), pp. 126-127:
Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. That is, be systematically ascetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test. Asceticism of this sort is like the insurance which a man pays on his house and goods. The tax does him no good at the time, and possibly may never bring him a return. But if the fire does come, his having paid it will be his salvation from ruin. So with the man who has daily inured himself to habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial in unnecessary things. He will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him, and when his softer fellow-mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast.

10 April 2015

Depressingly Scientific

Barbara Pym, Excellent Women (London: Penguin Classics, 2006), p. 78:
'These are quite obviously the books that nobody reads,' said Rocky, studying their titles. 'But it's a comfort to know that they are here if you ever should want to read them. I'm sure I should find them more entertaining than the more up-to-date ones. Wild Beasts and their Ways; Five Years with the Congo Cannibals; With Camera and Pen in Northern Nigeria; Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia. I wish people still wrote books with titles like that. Nowadays I believe it simply isn't done to show a photograph of "The Author with his Pygmy Friends" — we have become too depressingly scientific.'

9 April 2015

A Brief Parenthesis

Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Fragment XXIX, "Insignificance of the World," Poems (London: William Pickering, 1851) p. 116:
Why what's the world and time? a fleeting thought
In the great meditating universe,
A brief parenthesis in chaos.

7 April 2015

Sadder and Wiser

Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism (New York: Vintage Books, 2006), pp. 108-109:
It's a disturbing idea, that depressed people see reality correctly while non-depressed people distort reality in a self-serving way. As a therapist I was trained to believe that it was my job to help depressed patients both to feel happier and to see the world more clearly. I was supposed to be the agent of happiness and of truth. But maybe truth and happiness antagonize each other. Perhaps what we have considered good therapy for a depressed patient merely nurtures benign illusions, making the patient think his world is better than it actually is. There is considerable evidence that depressed people, though sadder, are wiser.
A related post: Enivrez-Vous

2 April 2015

The Cup of Life

A. C. Benson, The Joyous Gard, (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1913), pp. 211-212:
One must not use life like the Passover feast, to be eaten with loins girded and staff in hand. It is there to be lived, and what we have to do is to make the quality of it as fine as we can.
We must provide then, if we can, a certain setting for life, a sufficiency of work and sustenance, and even leisure; and then we must give that no further thought. How many men do I not know, whose thought seems to be "when I have made enough money, when I have found my place, when I have arranged the apparatus of life about me, then I will live as I should wish to live." But the stream of desires broadens and thickens, and the leisure hour never comes!
We must not thus deceive ourselves. What we have to do is to make life, instantly and without delay, worthy to be lived. We must try to enjoy all that we have to do, and take care that we do not do what we do not enjoy, unless the hard task we set ourselves is sure to bring us something that we really need. It is useless thus to elaborate the cup of life, if we find, when we have made it, that the wine which should have filled it has long ago evaporated.
A related post: Retirement Planning

31 March 2015

Portrait of the Artist as a Snail

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, A Painter's Camp (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1882), p. 244:
In my opinion, a snail is the perfect type of what an artist upon his travels ought to be. The snail goes alone and slowly, at quite a rational pace; stops wherever he feels inclined, and carries his house with him. Only I fear that the snail does not give that active attention to the aspects of nature which ought to be the constant habit of the artist. 

27 March 2015

The Heaviest of Responsibilities

D. H. Lawrence, The White Peacock (London: William Heinemann, 1911), pp. 432-433:
Having reached that point in a woman's career when most, perhaps all of the things in life seem worthless and insipid, she had determined to put up with it, to ignore her own self, to empty her own potentialities into the vessel of another or others, and to live her life at second hand. This peculiar abnegation of self is the resource of a woman for the escaping of the responsibilities of her own development. Like a nun, she puts over her living face a veil, as a sign that the woman no longer exists for herself: she is the servant of God, of some man, of her children, or may be of some cause. As a servant, she is no longer responsible for her self, which would make her terrified and lonely. Service is light and easy. To be responsible for the good progress of one's life is terrifying. It is the most insufferable form of loneliness, and the heaviest of responsibilities.

26 March 2015

Regime Change

Adam Phillips, "Against Self-Criticism", London Review of Books, Vol. 37, No. 5 (March, 2015) 13-16:
The books we read in adolescence often have an extraordinary effect on our lives. They are, among other things, an attempt at regime change. In Freud’s language we could say that we free ourselves of our parents’ ideals for us by using the available culture to make up our own ego-ideals, to evolve a sense of our own affinities beyond the family, to speak a language that is more our own. In the self-fashioning of adolescence, books (or music or films) begin really to take, to acquire a subtle but far-reaching effect that lasts throughout a person’s life.

24 March 2015

A Scholar's Deathbed

Samuel Warren (1807-1877), "A Scholar's Deathbed," The Diary of a Late Physician, ed. Charles Wells (New York: Saalfield Publishing, 1905), p. 51:
"I have indulged in wild ambitious hopes — lived in absurd dreams of future greatness — been educated beyond my fortunes — and formed tastes and cherished feelings, incompatible with the station it seems I was born to — beggary or daily labour!"
Id, p. 54:
"The objects of my ambition," he said, "have been vague and general; I never knew exactly where, or what, I would be. Had my powers, such as they are, been concentrated on one point — had I formed a more just and modest estimate of my abilities — I might possibly have become something. Besides, doctor, I had no money — no solid substratum to build upon; there was the rotten point!"
Id, p. 56:
I on one occasion asked him, how it came to pass that a person of his superior classical attainments had not obtained some tolerably lucrative engagement as an usher or tutor? He answered, with rather a haughty air, that he would rather have broken stones on the highway. "To hear," said he, "the magnificent language of Greece, the harmonious cadences of the Romans, mangled and disfigured by stupid lads and duller ushers — oh! it would have been such a profanation as the sacred groves of old suffered, when their solemn silence was disturbed by a rude unhallowed throng of Bacchanalians. I should have expired, doctor!"

23 March 2015

Enthusiasm in the Sacred Fire

Mrs. Russell Barrington, The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic Leighton, Vol. I (London: George Allen, 1906), p. 203:
Many of us remember the days when enthusiastic disciples of the wonderful new art of photography prophesied that no other would soon be needed, and that the draughtsman's craft would before long cease to exist. And further, they maintained it only required the discovery of a means to photograph colour for the painter's art also to be demolished. Artists, however, knew better. What was valuable in the records of photography, and what was of most intrinsic worth in the records created through means of the human hand and eye, were absolutely incomparable quantities. The treatment of nature in a photographic picture, however admirable and complete, must always be lacking in the evidence of any preference, reverence, or enthusiasm in the sacred fire, in fact, which inspires the draughtsman's pencil and the painter's brush. Photography is indiscriminate; human art is selective, and is precious as it evinces and secures a choiceness in selection. However truthfully a photograph may record beauty of line and form in nature, it inevitably also records in its want of discrimination any facts which may exist in the view photographed; these counterbalance the effect of such beauty, and mar the subtle impression of charm which scenes in nature produce on a mind sensitive to beauty.
Vol. II here.

A related post: Photographs and Paintings

Not unrelated: The Stranglers' Golden Brown, a song in praise of opiates, filmed in Leighton House.

Frederic Leighton, Idyll (c. 1880)

19 March 2015

Light Reading

Herbert Spencer, "The Coming Slavery," The Man Versus the State (London: Williams & Norgate, 1902), p. 31:
Table-talk proves that nine out of ten people read what amuses them or interests them rather than what instructs them; and that the last thing they read is something which tells them disagreeable truths or dispels groundless hopes. That popular education results in an extensive reading of publications which foster pleasant illusions rather than of those which insist on hard realities, is beyond question.

17 March 2015

What Is Man?

Alcuin of York, "The Disputation of Pepin the most Noble and Royal Youth with Albinus the Scholastic," quoted in E. M. Wilmot-Buxton, Alcuin (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1922), p. 112:
What is Language?
   The Betrayer of the Soul.

What generates language?
   The tongue.

What is the tongue?
   The Whip of the Air.

What is Air?
   The Guardian of Life.

What is Life?
   The joy of the happy; the expectation of Death.

What is Death?
   An inevitable event; an uncertain journey; tears for the living; the proving of wills; the Stealer of men.

What is Man?
   The Slave of Death; a passing Traveller; a Stranger in his place.

13 March 2015

Volumes Without a Preface, an Index, or a Moral

George Gilfillan in the introduction to The Poetical Works of George Herbert; With Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1853), p. v:
"Life," it has been said, "is a Poem." This is true, probably, of the life of the human race as a whole, if we could see its beginning and end, as well as its middle. But it is not true of all lives. It is only a life here and there, which equals the dignity and aspires to the completeness of a genuine and great Poem. Most lives are fragmentary, even when they are not foul — they disappoint, even when they do not disgust — they are volumes without a preface, an index, or a moral. It is delightful to turn from such apologies for life to the rare but real lives which God-gifted men, like Milton or Herbert, have been enabled to spend even on this dark and melancholy foot-breadth for immortal spirits, called the earth.
Hat tip: Anecdotal Evidence