29 August 2017

Questions Unasked

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 197-198:

THE MOST PERSONAL QUESTIONS OF TRUTH.  — What am I really doing, and what do I mean by doing it? That is the question of truth which is not taught under our present system of education, and consequently not asked, because there is no time for it. On the other hand we have always time and inclination for talking nonsense with children, rather than telling them the truth; for flattering women who will later on be mothers, rather than telling them the truth; and for speaking with young men about their future and their pleasures, rather than about the truth!

But what, after all, are seventy years ! — Time  passes, and they soon come to an end; it matters as little to us as it does to the wave to know how and whither it is rolling! No, it might even be wisdom not to know it.

"Agreed; but it shows a want of pride not even to inquire into the matter; our culture does not tend to make people proud."

"So much the better!"

"Is it really?"
The original, from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, pp. 178-179:
Die persönlichsten Fragen der Wahrheit. — "Was ist Das eigentlich, was ich thue? Und was will gerade ich damit?" — das ist die Frage der Wahrheit, welche bei unserer jetzigen Art Bildung nicht gelehrt und folglich nicht gefragt wird, für sie gibt es keine Zeit. Dagegen mit Kindern von Possen zu reden und nicht von der Wahrheit, mit Frauen, die später Mütter werden sollen, Artigkeiten zu reden und nicht von der Wahrheit, mit Jünglingen von ihrer Zukunft und ihrem Vergnügen zu reden und nicht von der Wahrheit, — dafür ist immer Zeit und Lust da! — Aber was sind auch siebenzig Jahre! — das läuft hin und ist bald zu Ende; es liegt so Wenig daran, dass die Welle wisse, wie und wohin sie laufe! Ja, es könnte Klugheit sein, es nicht zu wissen. — "Zugegeben: aber stolz ist es nicht, auch nicht einmal darnach zu fragen; unsere Bildung macht die Menschen nicht stolz". — Um so besser! — "Wirklich?"
A related post: No Strength Without Truth 

28 August 2017

Negative Capability

John Keats, letter to George and Thomas Keats (December 22, 1817), Letters of John Keats to his Family and Friends, ed. Sidney Colvin (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), p. 48:
I had not a dispute, but a disquisition, with Dilke upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakspeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium* of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.
*A footnote reads: "An admirable phrase! — if only penetralium were Latin."

Medallion of Keats by Guiseppe Girometti, c. 1832

25 August 2017

The Role of the Artist

Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 11:
As we dwell here between two mysteries, of a soul within and an ordered Universe without, so among us are granted to dwell certain men of more delicate intellectual fibre than their fellows — men whose minds have, as it were, filaments to intercept, apprehend, conduct, translate home to us stray messages between these two mysteries, as modern telegraphy has learnt to search out, snatch, gather home human messages astray over waste waters of the Ocean.

23 August 2017

A Heartless Crew

John Lavery, The Life of a Painter (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1940), pp. 30-31:
I doubt if there is a more heartless crew than poets, painters, and composers. We are encouraged in this callousness by our lay brethren. I often wonder why. Robert Louis Stevenson said that we are merely on a par with the daughters of joy who are paid for doing what they enjoy most. Art is so sacred the love of it covers a multitude of sins, and so we excuse ourselves.
A related post: The Sons of Joy

John Lavery, Anna Pavlova (1911)

22 August 2017

Life Advice

The first five of Thomas Davidson's twenty maxims, from William James' essay "Thomas Davidson: A Knight-Errant of the Intellectual Life," in Memories and Studies (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1911), pp. 92-93:
1. Rely upon your own energies, and do not wait for, or depend on other people.

2. Cling with all your might to your own highest ideals, and do not be led astray by such vulgar aims as wealth, position, popularity. Be yourself.

3. Your worth consists in what you are, and not in what you have. What you are will show in what you do.

4. Never fret, repine, or envy. Do not make yourself unhappy by comparing your circumstances with those of more fortunate people; but make the most of the opportunities you have. Employ profitably every moment.

5. Associate with the noblest people you can find; read the best books; live with the mighty. But learn to be happy alone.

18 August 2017

A Grim and Ironic Pleasure

John Williams, Stoner (London: Vintage, 2012), pp. 184-185:
He had come to that moment in his age when there occurred to him, with increasing intensity, a question of such overwhelming simplicity that he had no means to face it. He found himself wondering if his life were worth the living; if it had ever been. It was a question, he suspected, that came to all men at one time or another; he wondered if it came to them with such impersonal force as it came to him. The question brought with it a sadness, but it was a general sadness which (he thought) had little to do with himself or with his particular fate; he was not even sure that the question sprang from the most immediate and obvious causes, from what his own life had become. It came, he believed, from the accretion of his years, from the density of accident and circumstance, and from what he had come to understand of them. He took a grim and ironic pleasure from the possibility that what little learning he had managed to acquire had led him to this knowledge: that in the long run all things, even the learning that let him know this, were futile and empty, and at last diminished into a nothingness they did not alter.
A related post: Cheer Up Mate, It Might Never Happen

17 August 2017

Nothing More Valuable

The first line of Pierre Fournier's Manuel typographique, Vol. 1 (Paris: Barbou, 1764-66), my translation:
After the basic necessities of life, nothing is more valuable than books.
Volume 1 and Volume 2 on Gallica.

Note to self: Monotype's Fournier remains legible in small sizes.

15 August 2017

Something Solid, Something Definite

Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door  (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), pp. 65-66:
In reading [Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire] you don't want to be handicapped in any way. You want fair type, clear paper, and a light volume. You are not to read it lightly, but with some earnestness of purpose and keenness for knowledge, with a classical atlas at your elbow and a note-book hard by, taking easy stages and harking back every now and then to keep your grip of the past and to link it up with what follows. There are no thrills in it. You won't be kept out of your bed at night, nor will you forget your appointments during the day, but you will feel a certain sedate pleasure in the doing of it, and when it is done you will have gained something which you can never lose — something solid, something definite, something that will make you broader and deeper than before.
A related post: Iggy Pop, Classicist

The three volume Heritage Press edition of Decline and Fall  can be had for about $25.

14 August 2017

The Dead Are Such Good Company

Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), p. 3:
The dead are such good company that one may come to think too little of the living. It is a real and a pressing danger with many of us, that we should never find our own thoughts and our own souls, but be ever obsessed by the dead. Yet second-hand romance and second-hand emotion are surely better than the dull, soul-killing monotony which life brings to most of the human race. But best of all when the dead man's wisdom and the dead man's example give us guidance and strength in the living of our own strenuous days.

10 August 2017

Orderly Room, Orderly Mind

John Williams, Stoner (London: Vintage, 2012), pp. 102-103:
His study was on the first floor off the living room, with a high north window; in the daytime the room was softly illumined, and the wood paneling glowed with the richness of age. He found in the cellar a quantity of boards which, beneath the ravages of dirt and mold, matched the paneling of the room. He refinished these boards and constructed bookcases, so that he might be surrounded by his books; at a used furniture store he found some dilapidated chairs, a couch, and an ancient desk for which he paid a few dollars and which he spent many weeks repairing.

As he worked on the room, and as it began slowly to take a shape, he realized that for many years, unknown to himself, he had had an image locked somewhere within him like a shamed secret, an image that was ostensibly of a place but which was actually of himself. So it was himself that he was attempting to define as he worked on his study. As he sanded the old boards for his bookcases, and saw the surface roughnesses disappear, the gray weathering flake away to the essential wood and finally to a rich purity of grain and texture — as he repaired his furniture and arranged it in the room, it was himself that he was slowly shaping, it was himself that he was putting into a kind of order, it was himself that he was making possible.
Cf. Jordan Peterson on cleaning one's room

9 August 2017

The Urgency of Study

John Williams, Stoner (London: Vintage, 2012), p. 25:
Having come to his studies late, he felt the urgency of study. Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

31 July 2017

Plenty of Sleep

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), p. 293:
Plenty of Sleep. — What can we do to arouse  ourselves when we are weary and tired of our ego? Some recommend the gambling table, others Christianity, and others again electricity. But the best remedy, my dear hypochondriac, is, and always will be, plenty of sleep in both the literal and figurative sense of the word. Thus another morning will at length dawn upon us. The knack of worldly wisdom is to find the proper time for applying this remedy in both its forms.

The original, from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, p. 262:
Viel schlafen — Was thun, um sich anzuregen, wenn man müde und seiner selbst satt ist? Der Eine empfiehlt die Spielbank, der Andre das Christenthum, der Dritte die Electricität. Das Beste aber, mein lieber Melancholiker, ist und bleibt: viel schlafen, eigentlich und uneigentlich! So wird man auch seinen Morgen wieder haben! Das Kunststück der Lebensweisheit ist, den Schlaf jeder Art zur rechten Zeit einzuschieben wissen.

A related post: Get Enough Sleep

28 July 2017

The Reading Preferences of Older Scholars

George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, Vol. I (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896), p. 243:
The trade of the Italian dealers in manuscripts was not brought to an immediate close by the introduction of printing. The older scholars still preferred the manuscript form for their books, and found it difficult to divest themselves of the impression that the less costly printed volumes were suited only for the requirements of the vulgar herd. There are even, as Kirchhoff points out,* instances of scribes preparing their manuscripts from printed "copy," and there are examples of these manuscript copies of printed books being made with such literalness as to include the imprint of the printer.
* There is a footnote which points to page 40 of Albrecht Kirchhoff's Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels im 17ten Jahrhundert (Berlin: 1849). I have not found a copy online. The source may be somewhere in the second volume of Kirchhoff's Beiträge zur Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung, 1853), but I'm too lazy to check.

26 July 2017

The Young Nietzsche, The Lonely Nietzsche

Just adding a pair of books to the digital shelves:

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Der junge Nietzsche (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner, 1912), translated as The Young Nietzsche by Anthony Mario Ludovici (London: William Heinemann, 1912)

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, Der einsame Nietzsche (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner, 1912), translated as The Lonely Nietzsche  by Paul V. Cohn (London: William Heinemann, 1912)

24 July 2017

What Should a Picture Say?

G. F. Watts, "What Should a Picture Say?" quoted in William Loftus Hare, Watts (London: T. C. & E. C. Jack), pp. 35-36:
Roughly speaking, a picture must be regarded in the same light as written words. It must speak to the beholder and tell him something. ... If a picture is a representation only, then regard it from that point of view only. If it treats of a historical event, consider whether it fairly tells its tale. Then there is another class of picture, that whose purpose is to convey suggestion and idea. You are not to look at that picture as an actual representation of facts, for it comes under the same category of dream visions, aspirations, and we have nothing very distinct except the sentiment. If the painting is bad — the writing, the language of art, it is a pity. The picture is then not so good as it should be, but the thought is there, and the thought is what the artist wanted to express, and it is or should be impressed on the spectator.

Related posts:

21 July 2017

The Wallace Collection

A couple paintings from the Wallace Collection:

Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Bookworm or Le philosophe (c. 1846)

Jules Dupré, Crossing the Bridge (1838)

14 July 2017

Is It Not Shameful?

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day, tr. J. M. Kennedy, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. 9 (New York: Macmillan, 1911), pp. 224-225:

TO THOSE WHO DREAM OF IMMORTALITY —  So you desire the everlasting perpetuity of this beautiful consciousness of yourselves? Is it not shameful? Do you forget all those other things which would in their turn have to support you for all eternity, just as they have borne with you up to the present with more than Christian patience? Or do you think that you can inspire them with an eternally pleasant feeling towards yourself? A single immortal man on earth would imbue everyone around him with such a disgust for him that a general epidemic of murder and suicide would be brought about. And yet, ye petty dwellers on earth, with your narrow conceptions of a few thousand little minutes of time, ye would wish to be an everlasting burden on this everlasting universal existence! Could anything be more impertinent? After all, however, let us be indulgent towards a being of seventy years: he has not been able to exercise his imagination in conceiving his own "eternal tediousness" — he had not time enough for that!
The original from Vol. 10 of the Musarion edition, p. 201:
An die Träumer der Unsterblichkeit. — Diesem schönen Bewusstsein eurer selbst wünscht ihr also ewige Dauer? Ist das nicht schamlos? Denkt ihr denn nicht an alle andern Dinge, die euch dann in alle Ewigkeit zu ertragen hätten, wie sie euch bisher ertragen haben mit einer mehr als christlichen Geduld? Oder meint ihr, ihnen ein ewiges Wohlgefühl an euch geben zu können? Ein einziger unsterblicher Mensch auf der Erde wäre ja schon genug, um alles Andere, das noch da wäre, durch Ueberdruss an ihm in eine allgemeine Sterbe- und Aufhängewuth zu versetzen! Und ihr Erdenbewohner mit euren Begriffelchen von ein paar Tausend Zeitminütchen wollt dem ewigen allgemeinen Dasein ewig lästig fallen! Giebt es etwas Zudringlicheres! — Zuletzt: seien wir milde gegen ein Wesen von siebenzig Jahren! — es hat seine Phantasie im Ausmalen der eignen „ewigen Langenweile" nicht üben können, es fehlte ihm an der Zeit!
A related post: Miserable Egotism 

10 July 2017

Lots of Books on My Shelves

Arnold Bennett, "Books," Mental Efficiency (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), p. 103:
I read what I feel inclined to read, and I am conscious of no duty to finish a book that I don't care to finish. I read in my leisure not from a sense of duty, not to improve myself, but solely because it gives me pleasure to read. Sometimes it takes me a month to get through one book. I expect my case is quite an average case. But am I going to fetter my buying to my reading? Not exactly! I want to have lots of books on my shelves because I know they are good, because I know they would amuse me, because I like to look at them, and because one day I might have a caprice to read them.
A related post: Simple Pleasures

5 July 2017

Second-Hand Knowledge

Carl Hilty, Happiness, tr. Francis Greenwood Peabody (New York: Macmillan, 1903), pp. 86-87:
The reading of original sources ... gives one the advantage of being sure of his material, and of having his own judgement about it. There is this further advantage, that the original sources are in most cases not only much briefer, but much more interesting and much easier to remember than the books that have been written about them. Second-hand knowledge never gives the courage and self-confidence which one gets from acquaintance with original sources. One of the great mistakes of modern scholarship, as distinguished from that of the classic world, is — as Winkelmann has pointed out — that our learning in so many cases consists in knowing only what other people have known.
This reminds me of the first Lord Selborne's advice to read the classics, rather than books about the classics.

For the German see Hilty's Glück, Vol. 1 (Frauenfeld: Huber & Co., 1907), pp. 164-165.