6 March 2015

Good Legs With Plenty of Endurance

Maxim Gorky, Orlóff and His Wife, tr. Isabel F. Hapgood (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1901), p. 154:
A man must have been born in cultured society, in order to find within himself the patience necessary to live out the whole of his life in the midst of it, and never once desire to escape somewhere, away from the sphere of all those oppressive conventions, legalized by custom, of petty, malicious lies, from the sphere of sickly self-conceit, of sectarianism of ideas, of all sorts of insincerity, — in a word, from all that vanity of vanities which chills the emotions, and perverts the mind. I was born and reared outside that circle of society, and for that reason — a very agreeable one to me — I cannot take in its culture in large doses, without a downright necessity of getting out of its framework cropping up in me, and of refreshing myself, in some measure, after the extreme intricacy and unhealthy refinement of that existence.

In the country it is almost as intolerably tedious and dull as it is among educated people. The best thing one can do is to betake himself to the dives of the towns, where, although everything is filthy, it is still simple and sincere, or to set out for a walk over the fields and roads of his native land, which is extremely curious, affords great refreshment, and requires no outfit except good legs with plenty of endurance.

5 March 2015

The Dignity of Labour

Henri Lichtenberger, The Gospel of Superman, tr. J. M. Kennedy (New York: Macmillan, 1912), pp. 62-63:
The European of the present day who, in his artless rationalism, fancies that science leads to happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the final end of all civilisation, attempts to deny the misery of the people of slaves which is the sine qua non of modern society, he would deceive the galley-slaves of work as to their real condition by extolling the "dignity of labour," and gloss over the bankruptcy of science by declaring that it is more honourable to earn one's bread by the sweat of one's brow than to live in idleness. A poor sophism, this, and one which no more deceives anybody today — neither the proletariats, who are socialists; nor the rich, who no longer have any faith in their sole right to enjoyment. Let us then frankly acknowledge that slavery is the shameful and lamentable reverse side of all civilisation. We may mitigate it, make it less painful; we may render it easy for the serf to accept his fate — from this point of view the middle ages, with their feudal organisation had a great advantage over modern times. But so long as society exists, there will also exist powerful and privileged men who will found their splendour upon the misery of a multitude of creatures oppressed and exploited for their benefit.
Original French: La philosophie de Nietzsche (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1901)

3 March 2015


Thomas Lovell Beddoes, "Human Life: Its Value," Poems (London: William Pickering, 1851) p. 129:
How glorious to live! Even in one thought
The wisdom of past-times to fit together,
And from the luminous minds of many men
Catch a reflected truth; as, in one eye,
Light, from unnumbered worlds and furthest planets
Of the star-crowded universe, is gathered
Into one ray. —
Well, not that glorious; Beddoes committed suicide on 26 January 1849.

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!

12 January 2015

A Standard of Speech

Nicholas Murray Butler, The Meaning of Education (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915), pp. 138-139:
As one goes about in crowded places, a very common expression to meet the ear is this: "I says to him, says I." This is an expression that no human being would ever use if his ears really heard it. It is only because the speaker does not really hear it, does not know when he is using it, that he departs so entirely from the ordinary standards observed in our daily speech. A great many persons seem to think that correctness of speech is a matter of individual temperament, and that it is apt to accompany certain lackadaisical characteristics of manner. The truth is quite the contrary to this. Few things so completely reveal the kind of person one is as the sort of speech he uses. One need not use the speech of the formal lecturer; one need not use the long, involved words and phrases which sometimes mark the writing even of reputable authors; but any one who listens and who understands what he says and hears, who thinks and speaks with simple correctness and dignity, without affectation, without straining for effect, and especially without imitating the newspapers — that person is applying a standard of speech which indicates an advanced stage of civilization.

9 January 2015

With This Melancholy Charm

John Foster, "On a Man's Writing Memoirs of Himself," Essays in a Series of Letters (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), pp. 15-16:
Some persons can recollect certain particular sentences or conversations which made so deep an impression, perhaps in some instances they can scarcely tell why, that they have been thousands of times recalled, while innumerable others have been forgotten; or they can revert to some striking incident, coming in aid of instruction, or being of itself a forcible instruction, which they seem even now to see as plainly as when it happened, and of which they will retain a perfect idea to the end of life. The most remarkable circumstances of this kind deserve to be recorded in the supposed memoirs. In some instances, to recollect the instructions of a former period will be to recollect too the excellence, the affection, and the death, of the persons who gave them. Amidst the sadness of such a remembrance, it will be a consolation that they are not entirely lost to us. Wise monitions, when they return on us with this melancholy charm, have more pathetic cogency than when they were first uttered by the voice of a living friend. It will be an interesting occupation of the pensive hour, to recount the advantages which we have received from the beings who have left the world, and to reinforce our virtues from the dust of those who first taught them.

8 January 2015

Dancing Apes

Lucian of Samosata, "The Fisher," The Works of Lucian, tr. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), p. 222:
These men are excellent friends so long as there is no gold or silver for them to dispute the possession of; exhibit but a copper or two, and peace is broken, truce void, armistice ended; their books are blank, their Virtue fled, and they so many dogs; some one has flung a bone into the pack, and up they spring to bite each other and snarl at the one which has pounced successfully. There is a story of an Egyptian king who taught some apes the sword-dance; the imitative creatures very soon picked it up, and used to perform in purple robes and masks; for some time the show was a great success, till at last an ingenious spectator brought some nuts in with him and threw them down. The apes forgot their dancing at the sight, dropped their humanity, resumed their apehood, and, smashing masks and tearing dresses, had a free fight for the provender. Alas for the corps de ballet and the gravity of the audience!

6 January 2015

Redundant Amplitude

Isaac Taylor, History of the Transmission of Ancient Books to Modern Times (Liverpool: Edward Howell, 1875), pp. 95-96:
[U]nless a universal devastation should take its course, at once, over every region of the civilised world, the literature now extant in books can neither perish, nor suffer corruption. A temple, a statue, a picture, or a gem is but one; and however durable may be the material of which it consists, it continually decays, and it is always destructible. The touch of the sculptor moulders from the chiselled surface; and the time will come when every monument of his genius shall have crumbled into dust, and when his fame — lost from the marble, shall live only in the works of the poets and historians who were his contemporaries.

Thus it is that the written records of distant ages, with the knowledge of which the intellectual, moral, and political well-being of mankind is inseparably connected, are secured from extinction by a mode of conservation that is less liable to extensive hazards than any other that can be imagined. If Man be cut off from the knowledge of the past, he becomes indifferent to the future, and thenceforward sinks into the rudeness and ferocity of the sensual life. The redundant amplitude, therefore, of the means by which this knowledge is preserved, only bears a due proportion to the importance of the consequences that depend upon its perpetuation.

5 January 2015

A Few Individuals

Isaac Taylor, History of the Transmission of Ancient Books to Modern Times (Liverpool: Edward Howell, 1875), pp. 88-89:
Learning and the sciences can flourish and advance only where there are the means of a wide and quick diffusion of the fruits of intellectual labour: but they may exist even under the almost total absence of such means. This was the case in Europe during the middle ages. Knowledge rested with the few whom the inward fire of native genius constrained to pursue it: and these few were often insulated from each other, and unknown beyond the walls within which they spent their lives; and often secluded also by their tastes, even from their fellows of the same society.

In every myriad of the human race, take the number where or when we may, there will be found a few individuals — born for thought; and if the vocation of nature is not always stronger than every obstacle, it is, for the most part, strong enough to overcome such as are of ordinary magnitude. Those who are thus endowed with the appetite for knowledge, will certainly follow the impulse, if the means of its acquirement are presented to them in early life.
A related post: Individuals

2 January 2015

Have You Wine and Music Still?

James Elroy Flecker, "To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence," The Collected Poems of James Elroy Flecker, ed. J.C. Squire (New York: Doubleday, 1916), pp. 75-76:
I who am dead a thousand years,
   And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
   The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
   Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
   Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
   And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
   And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
   That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
   Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
   Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
   I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
   And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
   To greet you. You will understand.
Tomorrow is the centenary of Flecker's death.

19 December 2014

Back Next Year

I am taking a break. Best wishes to the friends and Fremden who read along here.

18 December 2014

The End of All Reading

Francesco Petrarca, Petrach's View of Human Life, tr. Susanna Dobson (London: Printed for John Stockdale, 1791), pp. 94-95:
The end of all reading should teach thee to be patient with those manners around thee thou canst not cure; and to leave unto the world the remedies thereof: to embrace love, to reverence the worthy, and mildly overpass the rest as so many little flies, who, if thou dost not mind, they will not have the power to annoy thee: that thy life is for the care of thy own proper business, not for the care over the lives of others: so shalt thou neither fear any, nor will any have cause to fear thee!

17 December 2014

Such a Tempting Form of Sport

George Gissing, Charles Dickens; A Critical Study (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1898), pp. 285-286:
As soon as a writer sits down to construct a narrative, to imagine human beings, or adapt those he knows to changed circumstances, he enters a world distinct from the actual, and, call himself what he may, he obeys certain laws, certain conventions, without which the art of fiction could not exist. Be he a true artist, he gives us pictures which represent his own favourite way of looking at life; each is the world in little, and the world as he prefers it. So that, whereas execution may be rightly criticized from the common point of view, a master's general conception of the human tragedy or comedy must be accepted as that without which his work could not take form. Dickens has just as much right to his optimism in the world of art, as Balzac to his bitter smile. Moreover, if it comes to invidious comparisons, one may safely take it for granted that "realism" in its aggressive shapes is very far from being purely a matter of art. The writer who shows to us all the sores of humanity, and does so with a certain fury of determination, may think that he is doing it for art's sake; but in very truth he is enjoying an attack upon the order of the universe — always such a tempting form of sport.

16 December 2014

Posthumous Publication

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, An Autobiography (London: Seeley & Co., 1897), p. 2:
The notion of being a dead man is not entirely displeasing to me. If the dead are defenceless, they have this compensating advantage, that nobody can inflict upon them any sensible injury; and in beginning a book which is not to see the light until I am lying comfortably in my grave, with six feet of earth above me to deaden the noises of the upper world, I feel quite a new kind of security, and write with a more complete freedom from anxiety about the quality of the work than has been usual at the beginning of other manuscripts.

12 December 2014

All Right for Journalism

H. Halliday Sparling, The Kelmscott Press and William Morris, Master-Craftsman (London: Macmillan, 1924), pp. 13-14:
Morris condemned the typewriter for creative work; it was "all right for journalism and the like; there's nothing to be said for that! For hastily written copy, which doesn't matter anyway, it may be desirable, or for a chap who can't write clearly — I daresay the Commonweal compositors would be glad enough were Blank to go in for one! — but it's out of place in imaginative work or work that's meant to be permanent. Anything that gets between a man's hand and his work, you see, is more or less bad for him. There's a pleasant feel in the paper under one's hand and the pen between one's fingers that has its own part in the work done. ... I always write with a quill because it's fuller in the hand for its weight, and carries ink better — good ink — than a steel pen. ... I don't like the typewriter or the pneumatic brush — that thing for blowing ink on to the paper — because they come between the hand and its work, as I've said, and again because they make things too easy. The minute you make the executive part of the work too easy, the less thought there is in the result. And you can't have art without resistance in the material. No! The very slowness with which the pen or the brush moves over the paper, or the graver goes through the wood, has its value. And it seems to me, too, that with a machine one's mind would be apt to be taken off the work at whiles by the machine sticking or what not."
A related post: Writing with a Pencil

10 December 2014

The Only Competent Tribunal

Matthew Arnold, "On Translating Homer," Selections from the Prose Writings of Matthew Arnold, ed. Lewis E. Gates (New York: Henry Holt, 1898), pp. 42-43:
No one can tell him [the translator] how Homer affected the Greeks: but there are those who can tell him how Homer affects them. These are scholars; who possess, at the same time with knowledge of Greek, adequate poetical taste and feeling. No translation will seem to them of much worth compared with the original; but they alone can say whether the translation produces more or less the same effect upon them as the original. They are the only competent tribunal in this matter: the Greeks are dead; the unlearned Englishman has not the data for judging; and no man can safely confide in his own single judgment of his own work. Let not the translator, then, trust to his notions of what the ancient Greeks would have thought of him; he will lose himself in the vague. Let him not trust to what the ordinary English reader thinks of him; he will be taking the blind for his guide. Let him not trust to his own judgment of his own work; he may be misled by individual caprices. Let him ask how his work affects those who both know Greek and can appreciate poetry; whether to read it gives the Provost of Eton, or Professor Thompson at Cambridge, or Professor Jowett here in Oxford, at all the same feeling which to read the original gives them.

9 December 2014

The Pressing of the Grapes

Frederic Taber Cooper, "The Technique of Translating," The Craftsmanship of Writing (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1911), pp. 267-268:
Remember that the translator is in a certain sense a dual personality; he must be on the one hand a born Frenchman, and a born Englishman or American on the other. Now, no one can be to the full extent these two things at once; and therefore no flawless piece of translating can be produced at a single sitting. The best way, then, is to saturate yourself with the foreign language, and make a first rough draft in English, as complete as possible, but clumsy in vocabulary and ragged in idiom. Put it away for a few days; and then, with the original out of sight and out of mind, proceed to recast and to refine. A good translation is like a good vintage; the first draft is simply the pressing of the grapes, — the best you can do is to make sure that you have expelled the juice to the last drop. But you must give it time to age, before it is ready to be put on the market.

5 December 2014

Gruß vom Krampus

Krampus contemplates his harvest of delicious, badly-behaved children:

Sei brav!

4 December 2014

Rise and Shine

Marcus Aurelius, To Himself  5.1, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 45:
In the morning, when you feel loth to rise, I apply the aphorism, 'I am rising for man's work.' Why make a grievance of setting about that for which I was born, and for sake of which I have been brought into the world? Is the end of my existence to lie snug in the blankets and keep warm?' — 'It is more pleasant so.' — 'Is it for pleasure you were made? not for doing, and for action? Look at the plants, the sparrows, the ants, spiders, bees, all doing their business, helping to weld the order of the world. And will you refuse man's part? and not run the way of nature's ordering?'

3 December 2014

Hurrah for the Life of a Country Boy

E. Vernon Arnold, Roman Stoicism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), pp. 372-373 (footnotes omitted):
A more real happiness is reserved for the man who gives up town life for that of the country. For it is most natural to win sustenance from the earth, which is our common mother, and liberally gives back many times over what is entrusted to her; and it is more healthy to live in the open than to be always sheltering in the shade. It matters little whether one works on one's own land or on that of another; for many industrious men have prospered on hired land. There is nothing disgraceful or unbecoming in any of the work of the farm; to plant trees, to reap, to tend the vine, to thrash out the corn, are all liberal occupations. Hesiod the poet tended sheep, and this did not hinder him from telling the story of the gods. And pasturage is (says Musonius) perhaps the best of all occupations; for even farm work, if it is exhausting, demands all the energies of the soul as well as of the body, whereas whilst tending sheep a man has some time for philosophizing also.

It is true that our young men today are too sensitive and too refined to live a country life; but philosophy would be well rid of these weaklings.
Title from the chorus of The Country Life, sung by The Watersons.

2 December 2014


Charles Francis Keary, The Pursuit of Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), p. 180:
[T]he tangible, physical advertisement is the plague of existence: every one must feel it to be so. It defaces the world, and involves, beside, a hundred practical inconveniences. It is almost impossible to discover the name of a railway-station among the posters which cover the station walls; or to distinguish the notes in a railway-guide from the advertisements which fill up every margin; or the table or contents of a magazine which is smothered up in the same way. You cannot open a book, without advertisements snowing down from between its pages: and all the landscape that you can see from a railway-carriage is made hideous by advertising boards. Soon I imagine, as people travel so much in motor cars, the highways will be decorated in like wise: already near a town you may see the beginning of this. Advertising has increased to a vast extent; and with its increase has come the moral degradation of the journals which are its mediums.

28 November 2014


Epictetus, Enchiridion (XLVIII) in The Works of Epictetus, tr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1890), p. 220:
The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person is that he never looks for either help or harm from himself, but only from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is that he looks to himself for all help or harm.

25 November 2014

A Bottom of Good Sense

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, Vol. IV (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1887), pp. 114-115:
Talking of a very respectable author, he told us a curious circumstance in his life, which was, that he had married a printer's devil. REYNOLDS. 'A printer's devil, Sir! Why, I thought a printer's devil was a creature with a black face and in rags.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I suppose, he had her face washed, and put clean clothes on her. (Then looking very serious, and very earnest.) And she did not disgrace him; the woman had a bottom of good sense.' The word bottom thus introduced, was so ludicrous when contrasted with his gravity, that most of us could not forbear tittering and laughing; though I recollect that the Bishop of Killaloe kept his countenance with perfect steadiness, while Miss Hannah More slyly hid her face behind a lady's back who sat on the same settee with her. His pride could not bear that any expression of his should excite ridicule, when he did not intend it; he therefore resolved to assume and exercise despotick power, glanced sternly around, and called out in a strong tone, 'Where's the merriment?' Then collecting himself, and looking aweful, to make us feel how he could impose restraint, and as it were searching his mind for a still more ludicrous word, he slowly pronounced, 'I say the woman was fundamentally sensible;' as if he had said, hear this now, and laugh if you dare. We all sat composed as at a funeral.

24 November 2014


Herbert Spencer, "Re-Barbarization," Facts and Comments (New York: D. Appleton, 1902), p. 184:
While bodily superiority is coming to the front, mental superiority is retreating into the background. It has long been remarked that a noted athlete is more honoured than a student who has come out highest from the examinations; and if there needs ocular proof we have it in the illustrated papers, which continually reproduce photographs of competing crews and competing teams, while nowhere do we see a photograph of, say, all the wranglers* of the year. How extreme is this predominance of athleticism is shown by the fact that Sir Michael Foster, when a candidate for the representation of the University of London, was described as specially fitted because he was a good cricketer! "All cricketers will, of course, vote for him," wrote in The Times a B.A. who had "played in the same eleven with him." Thus various changes point back to those medieval days when courage and bodily power were the sole qualifications of the ruling classes, while such culture as existed was confined to priests and the inmates of monasteries.
* A wrangler is a Cambridge University student who has obtained first-class honours in the mathematics tripos. The university stopped revealing their names in 1909. The names of the Boat Race crew are still published, though.

20 November 2014

A Good, Cosy, Dull Time

Samuel McChord Crothers, The Gentle Reader (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1910), pp. 5-6:
I sometimes fear that reading, in the old-fashioned sense, may become a lost art. The habit of resorting to the printed page for information is an excellent one, but it is not what I have in mind. A person wants something and knows where to get it. He goes to a book just as he goes to a department store. Knowledge is a commodity done up in a neat parcel. So that the article is well made he does not care either for the manufacturer or the dealer.

Literature, properly so called, is quite different from this, and literary values inhere not in things or even in ideas, but in persons. There are some rare spirits that have imparted themselves to their words. The book then becomes a person, and reading comes to be a kind of conversation. The reader is not passive, as if he were listening to a lecture on The Ethics of the Babylonians. He is sitting by his fireside, and old friends drop in on him. He knows their habits and whims, and is glad to see them and to interchange thought. They are perfectly at their ease, and there is all the time in the world, and if he yawns now and then nobody is offended, and if he prefers to follow a thought of his own rather than theirs there is no discourtesy in leaving them. If his friends are dull this evening, it is because he would have it so; that is why he invited them. He wants to have a good, cosy, dull time.

18 November 2014

Slippered Ease

Hamilton Wright Mabie, "A Comment on Some Recent Books," Essays from the Chap Book (Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Co., 1896), pp. 158-159:
In our slippered ease, protected by orderly government, by written constitutions, by a police who are always in evidence, we sometimes forget of what perilous stuff we are made, and how inseparable from human life are those elements of tragedy which from time to time startle us in our repose, and make us aware that the most awful pages of history may be rewritten in the record of our own day. It will be a dull day if the time ever comes when uncertainty and peril are banished from the life of men. When the seas are no longer tossed by storms, the joy and the training of eye, hand, and heart in seamanship will go out. The antique virtues of courage, endurance, and high-hearted sacrifice cannot perish without the loss of that which makes it worth while to live; but these qualities, which give heroic fibre to character, cannot be developed if danger and uncertainty are to be banished from human experience. A stable world is essential to progress, but a world without the element of peril would comfort the body and destroy the soul. In some form the temper of the adventurer, the explorer, the sailor, and the soldier must be preserved in an orderly and peaceful society; that sluggish stability for which business interests are always praying would make money abundant, but impoverish the money-getters. There would be nothing worth buying in a community in which men were no longer tempted and life had no longer that interest which grows out of its dramatic possibilities.

17 November 2014

An Infallible Touchstone

Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism; Second Series (London: Macmillan, 1888), pp. 16-17:
Indeed there can be no more useful help for discovering what poetry belongs to the class of the truly excellent, and can therefore do us most good, than to have always in one's mind lines and expressions of the great masters, and to apply them as a touchstone to other poetry. Of course we are not to require this other poetry to resemble them; it may be very dissimilar. But if we have any tact we shall find them, when we have lodged them well in our minds, an infallible touchstone for detecting the presence or absence of high poetic quality, and also the degree of this quality, in all other poetry which we may place beside them.
A related post: Every Man's Anthology

13 November 2014

A Confounded Swindle

George Gissing, New Grub Street, Vol. I (London: Smith, Elder, 1891), pp. 303-304:
   'Oh,' pursued Jasper, 'when did you see Whelpdale last?'
   'Haven't seen him for a long time.'
   'You don't know what he's doing? The fellow has set up as a "literary adviser." He has an advertisement in The Study every week. "To Young Authors and Literary Aspirants" — something of the kind. "Advice given on choice of subjects, MSS. read, corrected, and recommended to publishers. Moderate terms." A fact! And what's more, he made six guineas in the first fortnight; so he says, at all events. Now that's one of the finest jokes I ever heard. A man who can't get anyone to publish his own books makes a living by telling other people how to write!'
   'But it's a confounded swindle!'
   'Oh, I don't know. He's capable of correcting the grammar of "literary aspirants," and as for recommending to publishers — well, anyone can recommend, I suppose.'
   Reardon's indignation yielded to laughter.
   'It's not impossible that he may thrive by this kind of thing.'
   'Not at all,' assented Jasper.

10 November 2014

Progress and Prosperity

Herbert Spencer, "Some Regrets," Facts and Comments (New York: D. Appleton, 1902), p.7:
I detest that conception of social progress which presents as its aim, increase of population, growth of wealth, spread of commerce. In the politico-economic ideal of human existence there is contemplated quantity only and not quality. Instead of an immense amount of life of low type I would far sooner see half the amount of life of a high type. A prosperity which is exhibited in Board-of-Trade tables year by year increasing their totals, is to a large extent not a prosperity but an adversity. Increase in the swarms of people whose existence is subordinated to material development is rather to be lamented than to be rejoiced over. We assume that our form of social life under which, speaking generally, men toil to-day that they may gain the means of toiling tomorrow, is a satisfactory form, and profess ourselves anxious to spread it all over the world; while we speak with reprobation of the relatively easy and contented lives passed by many of the peoples we call uncivilized.

9 November 2014

The Mess Table

H. Rex Freston, "The Mess Table," The Quest of Truth and Other Poems (Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 1916), p. 38:
Sometimes, above the talk and wine
  That round the long white table flow,
There fall upon my startled ears,
  The voices that I used to know.

And looking round the lighted room,
  Each in his own familiar chair,
With laughing eyes that greet my eyes,
  I see the dead men sitting there.

The dead men's faces glow and shine
  With jest and laughter as of old;
The dead men's voices come and go;
  And yet my heart is strangely cold.

For one long moment they remain:
  And then, as through a mist, I see
The new men sitting in the chairs,
  Where once the dead men used to be.
Freston was killed in action at La Boisselle, France on January 24, 1916.

A related post: Strange to Think

5 November 2014

It Makes the Kidneys Ache

Florentius the scribe (c.920 - c.978) in his colophon to Pope Gregory's Moralia, quoted in Catherine Brown's "Remember the Hand: Bodies and Bookmaking in Early Medieval Spain." Word & Image, Vol. 27, No. 3 (2011), 262-278 (at p. 272):
One who knows little of writing thinks it no labor at all. For if you want to know I will explain to you in detail how heavy is the burden of writing. It makes the eyes misty. It twists the back. It breaks the ribs and belly. It makes the kidneys ache and fills the whole body with every kind of annoyance. So, reader, turn the pages slowly, and keep your fingers far away from the letters, for just as hail damages crops, so a useless reader ruins both writing and book. For as home port is sweet to the sailor, so is the final line sweet to the writer. 
The Latin:
quia qui nescit scribere laborem nullum extimat esse nam si uelis scire singulatim nuntio tibi quam grabe est scribturae pondus. oculis caliginem facit. dorsum incurbat. costas et uentrem frangit. renibus dolorem inmittit et omne corpus fastidium nutrit. ideo tu lector lente folias uersa. longe a litteris digitos tene quia sicut grando fecunditatem telluris tollit sic lector inutilis scribturam et librum euertit. nam quam suauis est nauigantibus portum extremum ita et scribtori nobissimus uersus. 

3 November 2014

Get Enough Sleep

Christopher Knight shares the wisdom he gained during 27 years of solitude, from an article by Michael Finkel in the September issue of GQ Magazine:
True hermits, according to Chris, do not write books, do not have friends, and do not answer questions. I asked why he didn't at least keep a journal in the woods. Chris scoffed. "I expected to die out there. Who would read my journal? You? I'd rather take it to my grave." The only reason he was talking to me now, he said, is because he was locked in jail and needed practice interacting with others.

"But you must have thought about things," I said. "About your life, about the human condition."

Chris became surprisingly introspective. "I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."

That was nice. But still, I pressed on, there must have been some grand insight revealed to him in the wild.

He returned to silence. Whether he was thinking or fuming or both, I couldn't tell. Though he did arrive at an answer. I felt like some great mystic was about to reveal the Meaning of Life.

"Get enough sleep."

He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn't be saying more. This is what he'd learned. I accepted it as truth.
Thanks to Laudator Temporis Acti, from whom I first learned of the North Pond Hermit.

30 October 2014

Long Autumn Evenings

Richard King (pseudonym of Richard King Huskinson, 1879-1947), Over the Fireside with Silent Friends (London: Bodley Head, 1921), pp. 60-61:
I sometimes think the man who first said that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" must have said it in November. The autumn is full of good intentions — just as spring is full of holiday and hope, and summer of heat and dolce far niente. But, just as the first warm day in June fills you with a physical vitality which you feel convinced that you must live for ever, so autumn makes you realise that life is fleeting and the mind has not yet reached its full development, nor intellectual ambition its complete fruition. Perhaps it is the touch of winter in the air which braces your mind and soul and gives you the impression that, given the long autumn evenings over the fire undisturbed, your brain will soon be capable of tackling the removal of mountains. If you are unutterably silly (as so many of us are — alas ! for the world's sanity; but thank heaven for the world's humour!) you will plan a whole curriculum of intellectual labour for the quiet evenings over the fireside. Oh, the books — good books, I mean — you will read! Oh, the subjects you will study! Perhaps you will learn Russian, or maybe something strange and out-of-the-ordinary, like Arabic! You dream of the moment when, speaking quite casually, you will inform your friends that you are reading the whole of the novels of Balzac; that you are studying for the law and hope to pass your "Final" "just for the fun of the thing"; that you are learning Persian, and intend to retranslate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and discover other Eastern philosophers. In fact, there is no end to the things you intend to do in the autumn evenings over the fireside when your labours of the day are over. Briefly, you are going to "cultivate your mind" ; and when people talk about "cultivating their minds," they usually regard the mind as a kind of intellectual allotment which anyone can till — given determination, an easy-chair near a big fire, and the long, long autumn evenings.

27 October 2014

The Past Is a Work of Art

Max Beerbohm, "Lytton Strachey," Mainly on the Air (London: Heinemann, 1957), pp. 179-180:
[There is] a great charm in the past. Time, that sedulous artist, has been at work on it, selecting and rejecting with great tact. The past is a work of art, free from irrelevancies and loose ends. There are, for our vision, comparatively few people in it, and all of them are interesting people. The dullards have all disappeared — all but those whose dullness was so pronounced as to be in itself for us an amusing virtue. And in the past there is so blessedly nothing for us to worry about. Everything is settled. There's nothing to be done about it  nothing but to contemplate it and blandly form theories about this or that aspect of it.

24 October 2014

Liberation from One's Time

Hamilton Wright Mabie, Books and Culture (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1896), pp. 193-194:
Beyond all other means of enfranchisement, the book liberates a man from imprisonment within the narrow limits of his own time; it makes him free of all times. He lives in all periods, under all forms of government, in all social conditions; the mind of antiquity, of mediaevalism, of the Renaissance, is as open to him as the mind of his own day, and so he is able to look upon human life in its entirety.

22 October 2014

Impertinent and Senseless

Jan Tschichold, "The Importance of Tradition in Typography," The Form of the Book; Essays on the Morality of Good Design, tr. Hajo Hadeler (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 1991), p. 31:
The typography of old books is a precious legacy, well worthy of continuation. It would be both impertinent and senseless to alter drastically the form of the European book. What has proved practical and correct over centuries, like the quad indent — should this be displaced by a so-called "experimental typography"? Only indisputable improvements would make sense. Real and true experiments have a purpose: they serve research, they are the means to find the truth and lead to evidence and proof. In themselves, experiments are not art. Infinite amounts of energy are wasted because everybody feels he has to make his own start, his own beginning, instead of getting to know what has already been done. It is doubtful that anyone who doesn't want to be an apprentice will ever become a master.

20 October 2014

A Cure for Debility

Arnold Bennett, "Mind Callisthenics," The Reasonable Life (London: A.C. Fifield, 1907), p. 19:
Tell a man that he should join a memory class, and he will hum and haw, and say, as I have already remarked, that memory isn't everything; and, in short, he won't join the memory class, partly from indolence, I grant, but more from false shame. (Is not this true?) He will even hesitate about learning things by heart. Yet there are few mental exercises better than learning great poetry or prose by heart. Twenty lines a week for six months: what a cure for debility! The chief, but not the only, merit of learning by heart as an exercise is that it compels the mind to concentrate. And the most important preliminary to self-development is the faculty of concentrating at will. 

16 October 2014

By Heart

Beatrice Warde, "By Heart," written during the London Blitz and quoted in Francis Meynell's My Lives (London: Bodley Head, 1971), p. 176:
When will you understand?
Mark what I say:
Whatever you hold in your hand
Will be blown away.

Must you learn for yourself?
Listen, take warning:
Whatever you leave on the shelf
Will be gone by morning.

Soon you must play your part.
What are you learning?
Get it by heart! By heart!
I have seen books burning.
A related post: Every Man's Anthology

13 October 2014

Newspapers Make Me Sick

Henry Miller to Emil Schnellock, sometime in the spring of 1925, in Letters to Emil, ed. George Wickes (New York: New Directions, 1989), p. 14:
[W]hen I took the newspaper along with me tonight, to glance at during my repast, I realized what a long way off all that is. I didn't look at the newspaper. I wrapped it up and carried it home again. Newspapers make me sick. What good are they to me? Do I want to know what the rest of the world is doing? There's nothing the matter with my imagination. I know they're buggering one another, bitching up the works, fighting, scrapping, bedevilling themselves and making of this vale of tears a bed of thorns. Thank you, I'd rather go home, pretend I'm an artist and write some flapdoodle. I suppose, in the last analysis, it comes down to this: that I really want to escape reality. I suppose I want to dream clean sheets, good meals, happy endings and all the rest of it. And I suppose, further, that I'm one of those lily-livered pups who hasn't guts enough to go out and get a he-man's job and slave eight hours, maybe ten, for some guy who knows a little less than I do.

9 October 2014

The Pursuit of Happiness

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis of Vauvenargues, The Reflections and Maxims, tr. F .G. Stevens (London: Humphrey Milford, 1940), pp. 20-21:
People find happiness both in wisdom and folly, virtue and vice. Contentment is no index of true worth.

La raison et l'extravagance, la vertu et le vice ont leurs heureux: le contentement n'est pas la marque du mérite.
If neither fame nor worth make men happy, does so-called happiness deserve to be the object of their longing? Would a man of even moderate courage deign to accept fortune, peace of mind or prudence, on pain of sacrificing the strength of his convictions or suppressing the soar of his spirit?

Si la gloire et si le mérite ne rendent pas les hommes heureux, ce que l'on appelle bonheur mérite-t-il leurs regrets? Une âme un peu courageuse daignerait-elle accepter ou la fortune, ou le repos d'esprit, ou la modération, s'il fallait leur sacrifier la vigueur de ses sentiments, et abaisser l'essor de son génie?

7 October 2014

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Professor Kevin C. Klement has published an edition of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that puts the original German alongside both the Ogden/Ramsey and the Pears/McGuinness translations. Some impressive typesetting:

PDFs and LATEX source available on his site.

6 October 2014

Soci Malorum

Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, tr. Mrs. Humphry Ward (New York: A. L. Burt, c. 1895), pp. 316-317:
Very few individuals deserve to be listened to, but all deserve that our curiosity with regard to them should be a pitiful curiosity — that the insight we bring to bear on them should be charged with humility. Are we not all ship-wrecked, diseased, condemned to death? Let each work out his own salvation, and blame no one but himself; so the lot of all will be bettered. Whatever impatience we may feel toward our neighbor, and whatever indignation our race may rouse in us, we are chained one to another, and, companions in labor and misfortune, have everything to lose by mutual recrimination and reproach. Let us be silent as to each other's weakness, helpful, tolerant, nay, tender toward each other! Or, if we cannot feel tenderness, may we at least feel pity! May we put away from us the satire which scourges and the anger which brands; the oil and wine of the good Samaritan are of more avail. We may make the ideal a reason for contempt; but it is more beautiful to make it a reason for tenderness.

1 October 2014

Priceless Possessions

Sir John Lubbock, "The Value of Time," The Pleasures of Life, (Chicago: W. B. Conkey Co., 1900), pp. 74-75:
Some years ago I paid a visit to the principal lake villages of Switzerland in company with a distinguished archaeologist, M. Morlot. To my surprise I found that his whole income was £100 a year, part of which, moreover, he spent in making a small museum. I asked him whether he contemplated accepting any post or office, but he said certainly not. He valued his leisure and opportunities as priceless possessions far more than silver or gold, and would not waste any of his time in making money.

29 September 2014

An Ugly, Bitter Emotion

Robert C. Solomon, "Nietzsche ad hominem," The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 210:
[Resentment] is an expression of weakness and impotence. Nietzsche is against resentment because it is an ugly, bitter emotion which the strong and powerful do not and cannot feel. Strong personalities who are politically or economically oppressed may also experience the most powerful feelings of resentment, but in them that emotion may even be a virtue. The difference, Nietzsche says, is that they act on it. They do not let it simmer and stew and "poison" the personality. There is also petty resentment, and sometimes Nietzsche makes the case against resentment in those terms. Resentment is an emotion that does not promote personal excellence but rather dwells on competitive strategy and thwarting others. It does not do what a virtue or proper motive ought to do — for Nietzsche as for Aristotle — and that is to inspire excellence and self-confidence in both oneself and others.
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25 September 2014


Arnold Bennett, "The Secret of Content," The Reasonable Life (London: A.C. Fifield, 1907), p. 39:
If human nature were more perfect than it is, success in life would mean an intimate knowledge of one's self and the achievement of a philosophic inward calm, and such a goal might well be reached by the majority of mortals.
A related post: Know Thyself

23 September 2014

An Event in One's History

Hamilton Wright Mabie, Books and Culture (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1896), p. 39:
To get at the heart of books we must live with and in them; we must make them our constant companions; we must turn them over and over in thought, slowly penetrating their innermost meaning; and when we possess their thought we must work it into our own thought. The reading of a real book ought to be an event in one's history; it ought to enlarge the vision, deepen the base of conviction, and add to the reader whatever knowledge, insight, beauty, and power it contains.

22 September 2014

Inferior to the Original

Matthew Arnold, preface to "Merope," The Poems of Matthew Arnold (London: Oxford University Press, 1922),  pp. 284-285:
[A] translation is a work not only inferior to the original by the whole difference of talent between the first composer and his translator: it is even inferior to the best which the translator could do under more inspiring circumstances. No man can do his best with a subject which does not penetrate him: no man can be penetrated by a subject which he does not conceive independently.
A related post: Get Off My Lawn

19 September 2014

The Twelfth Century

Arnold Bennett, "The Secret of Content," The Reasonable Life (London: A.C. Fifield, 1907), p. 57:
The mind can only be conquered by regular meditation, by deciding beforehand what direction its activity ought to take, and insisting that its activity takes that direction; also by never leaving it idle, undirected, masterless, to play at random like a child in the streets after dark. This is extremely difficult, but it can be done, and it is marvellously well worth doing. The fault of the epoch is the absence of meditativeness. A sagacious man will strive to correct in himself the faults of his epoch. In some deep ways the twelfth century had advantages over the twentieth. It practised meditation.
Eugène Grasset, Méditation (1897)

18 September 2014

Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus

Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day (Garden City: Doubleday, 1910), pp. 65-67:
By the regular practice of concentration (as to which there is no secret — save the secret of perseverance) you can tyrannise over your mind (which is not the highest part of you) every hour of the day, and in no matter what place. The exercise is a very convenient one. If you got into your morning train with a pair of dumb-bells for your muscles or an encyclopaedia in ten volumes for your learning, you would probably excite remark. But as you walk in the street, or sit in the corner of the compartment behind a pipe, or "strap-hang" on the Subterranean, who is to know that you are engaged in the most important of daily acts? What asinine boor can laugh at you?

I do not care what you concentrate on, so long as you concentrate. It is the mere disciplining of the thinking machine that counts. But still, you may as well kill two birds with one stone, and concentrate on something useful. I suggest — it is only a suggestion — a little chapter of Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus.

Do not, I beg, shy at their names. For myself, I know nothing more "actual," more bursting with plain common-sense, applicable to the daily life of plain persons like you and me (who hate airs, pose, and nonsense) than Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus. Read a chapter — and so short they are, the chapters! — in the evening and concentrate on it the next morning. You will see. 

17 September 2014

We Search Out Dead Men's Words

Matthew Arnold, "Empedocles on Etna" (lines 317-341), The Poems of Matthew Arnold (London: Oxford University Press, 1922), pp. 108-109:
   Look, the world tempts our eye,
   And we would know it all!
   We map the starry sky,
   We mine this earthen ball,
We measure the sea-tides, we number the sea-sands ;

   We scrutinize the dates
   Of long-past human things,
   The bounds of effac'd states,
   The lines of deceas'd kings ;
We search out dead men's words, and works of dead men's hands;

   We shut our eyes, and muse
   How our own minds are made,
   What springs of thought they use,
   How righten'd, how betray'd;
And spend our wit to name what most employ unnam'd;

   But still, as we proceed,
   The mass swells more and more
   Of volumes yet to read,
   Of secrets yet to explore.
Our hair grows grey, our eyes are dimm'd, our heat is tamed.

   We rest our faculties,
   And thus address the Gods:
   'True science if there is,
   It stays in your abodes;
Man's measures cannot mete the immeasurable All;

15 September 2014

They Do Take It All So Seriously

Lucian of Samosata, "Charon," The Works of Lucian, tr. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), pp. 178-179:
Charon: [observing humanity] How absurd it all is!

Hermes: My dear Charon, there is no word for the absurdity of it. They do take it all so seriously, that is the best of it; and then, long before they have finished scheming, up comes good old Death, and whisks them off, and all is over! You observe that he has a fine staff of assistants at his command; — agues, consumptions, fevers, inflammations, swords, robbers, hemlock, juries, tyrants, — not one of which gives them a moment's concern so long as they are prosperous; but when they come to grief, then it is Alack! and Well-a-day! and Oh dear me! If only they would start with a clear understanding that they are mortal, that after a brief sojourn on the earth they will wake from the dream of life, and leave all behind them, — they would live more sensibly, and not mind dying so much. As it is, they get it into their heads that what they possess they possess for good and all; the consequence is, that when Death's officer calls for them, and claps on a fever or a consumption, they take it amiss; the parting is so wholly unexpected.

12 September 2014

Empty Garrulousness

David Bentley Hart in the May issue of First Things:
Journalism is the art of translating abysmal ignorance into execrable prose. At least, that is its purest and most minimal essence. There are, of course, practitioners of the trade who possess talents of a higher order — the rare ability, say, to produce complex sentences and coherent paragraphs — and they tend to occupy the more elevated caste of “intellectual journalists.” These, however, are rather like “whores with hearts of gold”: more misty figments of tender fantasy than concrete objects of empirical experience. Most journalism of ideas is little more than a form of empty garrulousness, incessant gossip about half-heard rumors and half-formed opinions, an intense specialization in diffuse generalizations. It is something we all do at social gatherings — creating ephemeral connections with strangers by chattering vacuously about things of which we know nothing — miraculously transformed into a vocation.

10 September 2014

Photographs and Paintings

Bliss Carman, "Realism in Letters," The Friendship of Art (Boston: L.C. Page & Co., 1904), pp. 120-121:
As we go about this lovely world, scenes and incidents attract us and enchant us for a moment or for longer. And these scenes we delight to recall. We travel, and we bring home photographs of the places we have visited, reminders of our happy hours. It would seem that nothing could be more faithful than these mechanically accurate reproductions of the face of nature. And yet they are not wholly satisfying; a fleeting glimpse preserved in a sketch in pencil or water-colour may be far more satisfactory. The photograph reproduces a hundred details which the eye missed when it first came upon the scene; and at the same time misses the charm and the atmosphere with which we ourselves may have endowed the place as we gazed upon it. The sketch, on the other hand, omits these details, just as our eye omitted them originally, and yet preserves the atmosphere of our first delighted vision. Can it be said then that the photograph is more true than the painting? More true to the object, yes; but not more true to our experience of the object. And that is the important thing; that is what art must always aim at.
A related post: A Nice Day

8 September 2014


James Elroy Flecker, "Philanthropists," Collected Prose (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1920), pp. 79-80:
My heart goes black with fury and horror when I read their Wills. The only consolation one has is that there is another of them dead. Ten thousand pounds to the Wigan Home for Cats, five thousand to the Society for the Suppression of Sunday Amusements, a thousand for the Syrian Lunatic Asylum on Mount Lebanon, and fifty pounds a year (altered by a pencil-stroke to twenty-five) for their old and faithful clerk, Mr. Jinks.

One knows that the philanthropist himself, for all his riches, got nothing out of life but a sense of his own importance. It was he who once prevented Maud Allan* dancing in Manchester, and it was he who made Manchester. He never travelled except to Lucerne or Nice. Yet he had enough money to have wandered round the world. He might have stood on the slope of Tanagra, and seen the reflection of the snow-topped mountains of Euboea glide like swans on the still blue waters of the Euripus. He might have floated down the Tigris from Mosul to Bagdad in a raft of skins and been potted by Arabs from the bank. He might have walked beneath heavy Indian skies and understood in a flash, standing in the monstrous shadow of an ancient god, the secret of all Empires. He might have smoked opium with dim Chinese and travelled in his dreams right out of the world to starry isles and planetary oceans. He did none of these things.
* Maud Allan in The Vision of Salomé, c. 1906

4 September 2014

The Translator and the Children

James Elroy Flecker, "The Translator and the Children," The Collected Poems of James Elroy Flecker, ed. J.C. Squire (New York: Doubleday, 1916), p. 45:
While I translated Baudelaire,
Children were playing out in the air.
Turning to watch, I saw the light
That made their clothes and faces bright.
I heard the tune they meant to sing
As they kept dancing in a ring;
But I could not forget my book,
And thought of men whose faces shook
When babies passed them with a look.

They are as terrible as death,
Those children in the road beneath.
Their witless chatter is more dread
Than voices in a madman's head:
Their dance more awful and inspired,
Because their feet are never tired,
Than silent revel with soft sound
Of pipes, on consecrated ground,
When all the ghosts go round and round.

2 September 2014

Unmerited Prosperity

Lucian of Samosata, "Timon the Misanthrope," The Works of Lucian, tr. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), p. 33:
Thus in disgrace with fortune, I have betaken me to this corner of the earth, where I wear the smock-frock and dig for sixpence a day, with solitude and my spade to assist meditation. So much gain I reckon upon here — to be exempt from contemplating unmerited prosperity; no sight so offends the eye as that.