30 January 2018

Ratisbon

J. F. Dickie, Germany (London: A. C. Black, 1912), p. 72:
Ratisbon, or Regensburg as it is called by the Germans, is an ancient city with a most remarkable history. It has many Roman remains, the most conspicuous of which is the massive Porta Pretoria, whose foundations lie far below the level of the street. The splendour of the past is crystallised in many monumental buildings of all periods of the Christian era, and belonging to many styles of architecture. Regensburg is a historical jewel, and is one of the most interesting cities in the land.
Id., p. 74:
There is a charm about this old town that is indefinable. No one seems to be in a hurry. After the strenuous life of sight-seeing the tourist has pursued amid the art galleries of Munich, the restfulness of Ratisbon is delightful.

Moreover, it is a paradise for the student of architecture, and has hundreds of sermons in stones for those who know how to read.

E. T. Compton's painting of the nearby Walhalla, from the same book

I have fond memories of the time I spent studying in Regensburg. The university, however, is not worth visiting: it was built in the 1960s and is made entirely of cement.

Hat tip: Henry Sotheran's Bookshop, via zmkc.

29 January 2018

A Lazy Task for Second-Rate Minds

Sir Thomas Herbert Warren, "The Art of Translation," Essays of Poets and Poetry (London: John Murray, 1909), pp. 85-133 (at p. 89):
There is a common view of translation which regards it as naturally and necessarily a task for inferior minds, capable of being performed adequately by them and unworthy of any great or good ability, a fit employment for those who are essaying or those who have failed in literature. Much translation doubtless is produced by hacks, and it is obviously poor enough. But such production is in reality only like the other hack or journeyman work which fringes true and living literature. Translation worthy of the name has its proper place, and that no mean one, in the hierarchy of letters. Nay, rather what is noteworthy is not that so much translation is done by inferior writers for gain and as a trade, but that so much is done by men of ability for love and for little hire.
Id., p. 101:
So far from translation being a lazy task for second-rate minds, it is a task which tries the best powers of the best. It is only the best ages of literature, and the best writers, that can produce really excellent translations. The reason why they do not oftener give themselves to the task is partly that they are naturally preoccupied with their own creative effort, partly the difficulty, the insuperable difficulty, of the task; and therefore its inherently unsatisfactory character.
This is an interesting essay. I'll quote more from it later.

25 January 2018

Natural Inclinations

Henry Bulwer, "James Mackintosh," Historical Characters, Vol. II (London: Richard Bentley, 1868), p. 95:
I cannot repeat too often that no man struggles perpetually and victoriously against his own character; and one of the first principles of success in life, is so to regulate our career as rather to turn our physical constitution and natural inclinations to good account, than to endeavour to counteract the one or oppose the other.
Mosaic found beneath San Gregorio Magno al Celio in Rome

Related posts:

23 January 2018

Counsel Upon the Reading of Books

Henry Van Dyke, "A Preface on Reading and Books," Counsel Upon the Reading of Books (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1901), pp. 21-22:
Read the preface first. It was probably written last. But the author put it at the beginning because he wanted to say something particular to you before you entered the book. Go in through the front door.

Read plenty of books about people and things, but not too many books about books. Literature is not to be taken in emulsion. The only way to know a great author is to read his works for yourself. That will give you knowledge at first-hand.

Read one book at a time, but never one book alone. Well-born books always have relatives. Follow them up. Learn something about the family if you want to understand the individual. If you have been reading the "Idylls of the King" go back to Sir Thomas Malory: if you have been keeping company with Stevenson, travel for a while with Scott, Dumas, and Defoe.

Read the old books, — those that have stood the test of time. Read them slowly, carefully, thoroughly. They will help you to discriminate among the new ones.

Read no book with which the author has not taken pains enough to write it in a clean, sound, lucid style. Life is short. If he thought so little of his work that he left it in the rough, it is not likely to be worth your pains in reading it.

Read over again the ten best books that you have already read. The result of this experiment will test your taste, measure your advance, and fit you for progress in the art of reading.
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22 January 2018

High-Priests of the Unutterable

G. K. Chesterton, "The Mystagogue," A Miscellany of Men (London : Methuen, 1912), pp. 149-151:
Now the eulogists of the latest artistic insanities (Cubism and Post-Impressionism and Mr. Picasso) are eulogists and nothing else. They are not critics; least of all creative critics. They do not attempt to translate beauty into language; they merely tell you that it is untranslatable — that is, unutterable, indefinable, indescribable, impalpable, ineffable, and all the rest of it. The cloud is their banner: they cry to chaos and old night. They circulate a piece of paper on which Mr. Picasso has had the misfortune to upset the ink and tried to dry it with his boots, and they seek to terrify democracy by the good old anti-democratic muddlements : that "the public" does not understand these things; that "the likes of us" cannot dare to question the dark decisions of our lords.

I venture to suggest that we resist all this rubbish by the very simple test mentioned above. If there were anything intelligent in such art, something of it at least could be made intelligible in literature. Man is made with one head, not with two or three. No criticism of Rembrandt is as good as Rembrandt; but it can be so written as to make a man go back and look at his pictures. If there is a curious and fantastic art, it is the business of the art critics to create a curious and fantastic literary expression for it; inferior to it, doubtless, but still akin to it. If they cannot do this, as they cannot; if there is nothing in their eulogies, as there is nothing except eulogy, then they are quacks or the high-priests of the unutterable. If the art critics can say nothing about the artists except that they are good it is because the artists are bad. They can explain nothing because they have found nothing; and they have found nothing because there is nothing to be found.
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17 January 2018

Welfare Housing

John Ruskin, "The Story of the Halcyon," The Eagle's Nest (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1893), pp. 219-221:
I was infinitely struck, only the other day, by the saying of a large landed proprietor (a good man, who was doing all he could for his tenantry, and building new cottages for them), that the best he could do for them, under present conditions of wages, and the like, was, to give them good drainage and bare walls.

"I am obliged," he said to me, "to give up all thought of anything artistic, and even then, I must lose a considerable sum on every cottage I build."

Now, there is no end to the confused states of wrong and misery which that landlord's experience signifies. In the first place, no landlord has any business with building cottages for his people. Every peasant should be able to build his own cottage, — to build it to his mind; and to have a mind to build it too. In the second place, note the unhappy notion which has grown up in the modern English mind, that wholesome and necessary delight in what is pleasant to the eye, is artistic affectation...

[I]f cottages are ever to be wisely built again, the peasant must enjoy his cottage, and be himself its artist, as a bird is. Shall cock-robins and yellow-hammers have wit enough to make themselves comfortable, and bullfinches peck a Gothic tracery out of dead clematis, — and your English yeoman be fitted by his landlord with four dead walls and a drainpipe? That is the result of your spending 300,000£ a year at Kensington in science and art, then?

You have made beautiful machines, too, wherewith you save the peasant the trouble of ploughing and reaping, and threshing; and after being saved all that time and toil, and getting, one would think, leisure enough for his education, you have to lodge him also, as you drop a puppet into a deal box, and you lose money in doing it! and two hundred years ago, without steam, without electricity, almost without books, and altogether without help from "Cassell's Educator" or the morning newspapers, the Swiss shepherd could build himself a chalet, daintily carved, and with flourished inscriptions, and with red and blue and white ποικιλία [tapestries]; and the burgess of Strasburg could build himself a house like this I showed you, and a spire such as all men know; and keep a precious book or two in his public library, and praise God for all: while we, — what are we good for, but to damage the spire, knock down half the houses, and burn the library, — and declare there is no God but Chemistry?

15 January 2018

He That Increaseth Knowledge, Increaseth Sorrow

John Ruskin, "Contentment in Science and Art," The Eagle's Nest (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1893), p. 94:
Gentlemen, I pray you very solemnly to put that idea of knowing all things in Heaven and Earth out of your hearts and heads. It is very little that we can ever know, either of the ways of Providence, or the laws of existence. But that little is enough, and exactly enough: to strive for more than that little is evil for us; and be assured that beyond the need of our narrow being, — beyond the range of the kingdom over which it is ordained for each of us to rule in serene αὑτάρκεια [self-sufficiency] and self-possession, he that increaseth toil, increaseth folly; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.
Id., p. 97:
Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

11 January 2018

All the Good Stuff Is in Museums

Will Price, "Man's Expression of Himself in His Work," The Artsman, Vol. 1, No. 6 (March 1904), pp. 209-220 (at pp. 217-218):
Take the walls of some of the Middle Age cathedrals. If we had them to build we would perhaps hire an engineer to build them and put them up in the cheapest and flimsiest way he knew how. Those fellows didn’t do anything of the kind. They said: “We will not simply lay stone in here. We will work the whole problem out.” And so you will find that the front of the wall is a series of arched stones inside the wall that do not show at all, carrying with the least possible material the strain of vaulted roofs to the ground. That is the difference between the artsman and the economical man. The economical man would tie them together with iron rods, because iron is cheaper than stone, and in a few years they would probably fall down. That is the truth about everything you admire. You go to Europe to admire the work of dead men whom you ought to be beating. All the good stuff of the world is in museums. We have what we call art for art’s sake, not art in relation to life. We have our academies of the "fine” arts where we turn out thousands of pupils annually to do what? Draw advertisements.

10 January 2018

Only Drest for Show; Some Lines on Instagram

William Wordsworth, "Sonnet VII — Written in London, September 1802," Poems of Wordsworth, ed. Matthew Arnold (London: Macmillan and Co., 1907), p. 214:
O Friend! I know not which way I must look
For comfort, being, as I am, opprest.
To think that now our Life is only drest
For show; mean handy-work of craftsman, cook,
Or groom! — We must run glittering like a Brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest:
The wealthiest man among us is the best:
No grandeur now in nature or in book
Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore:
Plain living and high thinking are no more!
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws. 

8 January 2018

Lawrence of Arabia, Translator

T. E. Lawrence,  Selected Letters of T. E. Lawrence, ed. David Garnett (London: Jonathan Cape, 1938), p. 625 (letter to E. M. Forster, 28 August 1928):
In translating you get all the craftsman's fuss of playing with words, without the artist's responsibility for their design and meaning. I could go on translating for ever: but for an original work there's not an idea in my head.
pp. 709-710 (letter to Bruce Rogers, 31 January 1931):
You may have thought me cavalier in preferring my own way to W.'s professional suggestions, sometimes: not his verbal suggestions, but his archaeology. Yet actually, I'm in as strong a position vis-à-vis Homer as most of his translators. For years we were digging up a city of roughly the Odysseus period. I have handled the weapons, armour, utensils of those times, explored their houses, planned their cities. I have hunted wild boars and watched wild lions, sailed the Aegean (and sailed ships), bent bows, lived with pastoral people, woven textiles, built boats and killed many men. So I have odd knowledge that quality me to understand the Odyssey, and odd experiences that interpret it to me. Therefore a certain headiness in rejecting help.
According to the T. E. Lawrence Studies web site (which is where I found these quotes), "W." is thought to have been H. B. Walters, Keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities at the British Museum, who was asked to review Lawrence's translation of the Odyssey.

My copy's title page

In Paragraphs on Printing (New York: William E. Rudge's Sons, 1943), Bruce Rogers lists this edition among his thirty best-designed books. It can still be found on Abebooks for a reasonable price.

4 January 2018

Reception Theory

Okakura Kakuzō, The Book of Tea (Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis, 1919), p. 89:
At the magic touch of the beautiful the secret chords of our being are awakened, we vibrate and thrill in response to its call. Mind speaks to mind. We listen to the unspoken, we gaze upon the unseen. The master calls forth notes we know not of. Memories long forgotten all come back to us with a new significance. Hopes stifled by fear, yearnings that we dare not recognise, stand forth in new glory. Our mind is the canvas on which the artists lay their colour; their pigments are our emotions; their chiaroscuro the light of joy, the shadow of sadness. The masterpiece is of ourselves, as we are of the masterpiece.

The sympathetic communion of minds necessary for art appreciation must be based on mutual concession. The spectator must cultivate the proper attitude for receiving the message, as the artist must know how to impart it.

2 January 2018

Human Apes and Pigs

Norman Lindsay, Creative Effort (Sydney: Art in Australia, 1920), pp. 107-108:
The one moral condition is mental achievement, and there is no understanding high morality till one learns that intellectual man lives as an alien amid a horde of animals, made in his likeness. The difference between man and man is the difference between man and ape. You are deceived, because the human ape wears clothes, eats cooked food, reads the newspaper, takes an interest in politics, business, pleasure. Because he talks so glibly, you think he has a valuable soul. Why, in a generation, any savage can be taught these tricks of habit! When I say that each man must leave the earth a better man than he found it, I mean that each man does. But the human apes, they do no more than eat, sleep, chatter, make love, and search for entertainment. They require only enough tricks to acquire these things, and their effort is to relax, not to develop. What if they are kind apes, cruel apes, ugly apes, handsome apes; — apes they remain, until they have acquired the individual power to discipline their minds and senses. Those who labour among them, striving to give them some higher ideas than monkey chatter, may do some good to their own souls, but little good to the apes. The apes must make the effort for themselves, or it has no value. And they have before them as a stimulus the example and works of higher minds. Good Samaritans, Philanthropists, good missionaries in the pig-sty, if you ever clean up this place, it will be much to the exasperation of the pigs. Morally, it is waste labour; only, like much that is wasted effort here, it must be made. We must keep the pig-sty clean, in order that the pigs may not infect mankind.
Not unrelated: Dancing Apes

22 December 2017

In the Company of the Great Dead

Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door  (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), pp. 133-134:
It is good to have the magic door shut behind us. On the other side of that door are the world and its troubles, hopes and fears, headaches and heartaches, ambitions and disappointments; but within, as you lie back on the green settee, and face the long lines of your silent soothing comrades [i.e., the books on your shelves], there is only peace of spirit and rest of mind in the company of the great dead. Learn to love, learn to admire them; learn to know what their comradeship means; for until you have done so the greatest solace and anodyne God has given to man have not yet shed their blessing upon you. Here behind this magic door is the rest house, where you may forget the past, enjoy the present, and prepare for the future.
Arthur Conan Doyle's study
Related posts:

21 December 2017

Taedium Vitae

Jean-Baptiste Massillon, quoted in Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, "Massillon," Monday Chats, tr. William Mathews (Chicago: S. C. Griggs & Co., 1882), p. 114:
Your passions having tried everything and exhausted everything, nothing more remains to you than to devour yourselves; your whimsicalities (bizarreries) become the only resource of your ennui and of your satiety. Unable longer to vary the pleasures already quite exhausted, you can no longer find variety except in the eternal inequalities of your humor, and you incessantly blame yourselves for the void which everything that surrounds you leaves within you.
The original can be found in Petit carême de Massillon (Paris: Antoine-Augustin Renouard, 1802), p. 96.

20 December 2017

Great Art

John Ruskin, "Definition of Greatness in Art," Modern Painters, Vol. I (New York: John W. Lovell Company, 1885), pp. 78-79:
I want a definition of art wide enough to include all its varieties of aim; I do not say therefore that the art is greatest which gives most pleasure, because perhaps there is some art whose end is to teach, and not to please. I do not say that the art is greatest which teaches us most, because perhaps there is some art whose end is to please, and not to teach. I do not say that the art is greatest which imitates best, because perhaps there is some art whose end is to create, and not to imitate. But I say that the art is greatest, which conveys to the mind of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the greatest ideas, and I call an idea great in proportion as it is received by a higher faculty of the mind, and as it more fully occupies, and in occupying, exercises and exalts, the faculty by which it is received.
A related post: What Is Art?

18 December 2017

Knowing What Not to Read

Frederic Harrison, The Choice of Books (London: Macmillan & Co., 1891), pp. 3-4:
The longest life, the greatest industry, joined to the most powerful memory, would not suffice to make us profit from a hundredth part of the world of books before us. If the great Newton said that he seemed to have been all his life gathering a few shells on the shore, whilst a boundless ocean of truth still lay beyond and unknown to him, how much more to each of us must the sea of literature be a pathless immensity beyond our powers of vision or of reach — an immensity in which industry itself is useless without judgment, method, discipline; where it is of infinite importance what we can learn and remember, and of utterly no importance what we may have once looked at or heard of. Alas! the most of our reading leaves as little mark even in our own education as the foam that gathers round the keel of a passing boat! For myself, I am inclined to think the most useful help to reading is to know what we should not read, what we can keep out from that small cleared spot in the overgrown jungle of "information," the corner which we can call our ordered patch of fruit-bearing knowledge. The incessant accumulation of fresh books must hinder any real knowledge of the old; for the multiplicity of volumes becomes a bar upon our use of any. In literature especially does it hold — that we cannot see the wood for the trees.

15 December 2017

The March of Progress

Charles de Montalembert, quoted in Margaret Oliphant, Memoir of Count de Montalembert, Vol. I (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1872), pp. 242-243:
The ancient soil of our country, surcharged as it was with the most marvellous creations of the imagination and faith, becomes day by day more naked, more uniform, more bare — nothing is spared. The devastating axe attacks alike forests and churches, castles and hotels de ville. One would say that the intention of our contemporaries was to persuade themselves that the world began yesterday, and was to end to-morrow, so anxious are they to annihilate everything whose duration exceeds the life of a man.
The original can be found on page 7 of de Montalembert's Du vandalisme et du catholicisme dans l'art (Paris: Debécourt, 1839).

A related post: Witnesses to Destruction

14 December 2017

Everybody's a Critic

F. L. Lucas, Style (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1955), p. 25:
Constantly and incorrigibly we forget how much harder it is to create, even with mediocre results, than to criticize. We can all criticize Napoleon's folly in lingering so late into the autumn at Moscow; but how many of us would ever have got there? I conclude, not that we should fear to criticize frankly, but that it might often be done with rather more modesty by those who have created nothing themselves.
Related posts:

Hat tip: Anecdotal Evidence

12 December 2017

Letters to the Editor

Alfred Tennyson, "Literary Squabbles," The Complete Poetical Works of Tennyson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1898), p. 272:
Ah God! the petty fools of rhyme
   That shriek and sweat in pigmy wars
Before the stony face of Time,
   And look'd at by the silent stars;

Who hate each other for a song,
   And do their little best to bite
And pinch their brethren in the throng,
   And scratch the very dead for spite;

And strain to make an inch of room
   For their sweet selves, and cannot hear
The sullen Lethe rolling doom
   On them and theirs and all things here;

When one small touch of Charity
   Could lift them nearer Godlike state
Than if the crowded Orb should cry
   Like those who cried Diana great.

And I too talk, and lose the touch
   I talk of. Surely, after all,
The noblest answer unto such
   Is perfect stillness when they brawl.

11 December 2017

Live Like a Hermit, Work Like a Horse

William Boyd Carpenter, The Son of Man Among the Sons of Men (London: Isbister & Co. Ltd., 1893), pp. 268-270:
The companion virtue of self-reliance ought to be single-mindedness. Single-mindedness seeks, by concentration of all the attention and all the powers upon one thing, to secure the end in view. It is the spirit which will not be turned aside or seduced. It knows that some sacrifice is needed, and it is ready to pay the price. It compels the attention of the whole mind to the thing in hand. It draws all interest to this one thing. It is content to fling out of the way everything that stands in its path. It will cast overboard the most precious freightage in order to reach its harbour successfully....

To be without the single-minded spirit is to court failure. To possess it is to bring success within reach. It is indispensable in life.

Greatness possesses the courage which can sacrifice what may be useful, when it may also prove a temptation or an encumbrance to its advancing march. Caesar knows when to burn his boats. Industry knows that many a social pleasure and many an hour of relaxation must ruthlessly be sacrificed if ultimate victory is to be achieved. Like Lord Eldon, it knows that the way to success is to live like a hermit and work like a horse! The message of successful lives is the lesson of a single-minded devotion to the object in view.