2 March 2018

Ego Hippo

Florentin Félix Morin, "Ego Hippo," Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (Volume 22, 2017) 87-96 (at 88):
Something about being a hippo makes me feel cute, confident, sexy, and safe. I discovered that another self was available for me: being a hippo means that I don’t have to be a boy or a girl, a child or an adult, normal or strange. It means that my smile becomes a hippo smile, and the way that I carry my body, a hippo walk. It brings me freedom, space, and a thrilling sense of possibility. Where does this transformative power come from? How does a word, how does an image disrupt “reality” to the point that my body’s relationship to space is somewhat altered?

Here is a basic assertion that I will complicate later: my hippo ego was first a metaphor. I do not experience it as ontologically given, and I am fully aware that I created it with friends and loved ones. It is “merely” an image, but it is at once my shield, my screen, and my skin. My shield, because it linguistically and materially provides me with a way to evade (trans)gender assumptions and injunctions. My screen, because it is an imaginary surface of projection through which I can (dis)organize myself. And hippo is my skin, because it is a vulnerable and meaningful point of contact between my flesh and the (rest of the) world. Hippopotamus: the very word is powerful music to my ears.

What would it be like to live with a "tranimal" who identifies as a hippopotamus? Unpleasant, I should think.

Hat tip: The New Real Peer Review

28 February 2018

The Appeal of Fiction

Joséphin Péladan, Le Vice Suprême (Paris: Éditions du Monde Moderne, 1924), p. 24 (my translation):
Due to a fatal instinct in her soul, a woman who reads a novel tries on its passions; in the same way, should she find a strangely-shaped cloak hanging over a piece of furniture, she will inevitably pull it over her shoulders, happy to find herself playing the heroine.

A poster advertising two of Péladan's novels, circa 1886

27 February 2018

Jean-Barthélemy Hauréau

When I see a line like this, I want to know more about the man:


25 February 2018

Book Lending and Book Losing

C. Tomlinson in a reply to Notes and Queries, 8th Series, No. 16 (April 16, 1892), at 322:
“I lent it and lost it!” is a pathetic expression capable of moving the sympathy of every bibliophile. I, too, have lent and lost many books. Although I do not take so kindly a view of the criminals as did Sir Walter Scott, who found several of his friends to be bad arithmeticians but capital book-keepers, yet, on the other hand, I do not adopt such a pessimistic opinion as that of Charles Nodier:
Tel est le sort de tout livre prêté,
Souvent il est perdu, toujours il est gâté.
I also think Mrs. Schimmelpenninck a little severe for entering on her book-plate the following monition: “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again” (Ps. xxxvii. 21). I rather incline to the sentiment expressed by Condorcet in the following lines to his beloved books:
Chères délices de mon âme,
Gardez vous bien de me quitter,
Quoiqu'on vienne vous emprunter.
Chacun de vous m'est une femme,
Qui peut se laisser voir sans blâme,
Et ne se doit jamais prêter.
Scaliger's library motto was intended to convert the borrower into a purchaser: “Ite ad vendentes.” It is difficult for a bibliophile to understand the magnanimity of those who place their books at the disposal of others, and yet the library motto of Grolier was “Pour moi, et mes amis,” and that of Schelcher “Pour tous, et pour moi.” When I was a boy Old Montague House was yet standing, and it contained the beginnings of the British Museum collections. I often wandered through its rooms, and noticed that readers helped themselves to the books they wanted, as they still continue to do in the modern Reading Room. This was a practice common to continental libraries and led sometimes to the loss of valuable books, especially fourteeners of small size. On one occasion the old keeper of the Bibliothèque at Lyons at closing time secured the door, and said to the two readers who remained, “One of us three is a thief. I consent to be searched first.” Each delinquent pulled out a book, laughed, and said, “You are too sharp for us.” I am sorry to add that during the Revolution the soldiers of the Republic used the books of this library as fuel in cooking their rations.
A related post: Ex Libris

21 February 2018

My Never-Failing Friends

Robert Southey, "My Days Among the Dead Are Past," The Poems of Robert Southey, ed. Maurice H. Fitzgerald (London: Henry Frowde, 1909), p. 347:
My days among the Dead are past ;
    Around me I behold,
Where’er these casual eyes are cast,
    The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.

With them I take delight in weal.
    And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
    How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew’d
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
    I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn.
    Partake their hopes and fears.
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

My hopes are with the Dead, anon
    My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
   Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust.
That will not perish in the dust.

16 February 2018

Forgiveness Is Not Always a Virtue

Jeffrie G. Murphy, ‎Forgiveness and Mercy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 17-18 (footnotes omitted):
Forgiveness is not always a virtue, however. Indeed, if I am correct in linking resentment to self-respect, a too ready tendency to forgive may properly be regarded as a vice because it may be a sign that one lacks respect for oneself. Not to have what Peter Strawson calls the "reactive attitude" of resentment when our rights are violated is to convey — emotionally — either that we do not think we have rights or that we do not take our rights very seriously. Forgiveness may indeed restore relationships, but to seek restoration at all cost — even at the cost of one's very human dignity — can hardly be a virtue. And, in intimate relationships, it can hardly be true love or friendship either — the kind of love and friendship that Aristotle claimed is an essential part of the virtuous life. When we are willing to be doormats for others, we have, not love, but rather what the psychiatrist Karen Horney calls "morbid dependency." If I count morally as much as anyone else (as surely I do), a failure to resent moral injuries done to me is a failure to care about the moral value incarnate in my own person (that I am, in Kantian language, an end in myself) and thus a failure to care about the very rules of morality. To put the point in yet another way: If it is proper to feel indignation when I see third parties morally wronged, must it not be equally proper to feel resentment when I experience the moral wrong done to myself? Morality is not simply something to be believed in; it is something to be cared about. This caring includes concern about those persons (including oneself) who are the proper objects of moral attention.

Interestingly enough, a hasty readiness to forgive — or even a refusal to display resentment initially — may reveal a lack of respect, not just for oneself, but for others as well. The Nietzschean view, for example, is sometimes portrayed (perhaps unfairly) as this: There is no need for forgiveness, because a truly strong person will never feel resentment in the first place. Why? Because he is not so weak as to think that other people — even those who harm him — matter enough to have any impact on his self-respect. We do not resent the insect that stings us (we simply deal with it), and neither should we resent the human who wrongs us.

Related posts:

15 February 2018

Improved Fabrics, but Deteriorated Men

William Ellery Channing, "Spiritual Freedom," The Works of William Ellery Channing, Vol. IV (Boston : American Unitarian Association, 1903), pp. 83-84:
An important benefit of civilization, of which we hear much from the political economist, is the division of labor, by which arts are perfected. But this, by confining the mind to an unceasing round of petty operations, tends to break it into littleness. We possess improved fabrics, but deteriorated men. Another advantage of civilization is, that manners are refined, and accomplishments multiplied; but these are continually seen to supplant simplicity of character, strength of feeling, the love of nature, the love of inward beauty and glory. Under outward courtesy, we see a cold selfishness, a spirit of calculation, and little energy of love.
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9 February 2018

Gussied Up

Pierre Daniel Huet (1630–1721), "De optimo genere interpretandi," [On the Best Way of Translating] tr. André Lefevere, from Translation/History/Culture; A Sourcebook (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 88:
The best possible likeness is that which renders the lines of the mouth, the color, the eyes, the shape of the face, and the way in which the body moves in such a manner that the absent man who is portrayed can be thought of as present. But a bad likeness pictures a thing in a manner different from what it is, more beautiful and with a happier countenance. We do not like translations that eat up the author’s fat or put more fat on him, nor do we like translations that clear up obscure passages, correct mistakes, or sort out bad syntax. We would rather have a translation that shows us the whole author, closely copied in our native style, and one that makes it possible for us to either praise his virtues, should they be deserving of praise, or scoff at his vices. For who, except a young girl who loves herself too much and wants to please herself too much would praise a mirror that so disfigures the face that it reflects a rosy forehead, or a forehead full of vigor, or even a forehead tempered with decent splendor when shown a face of ghastly pallor, or a face that is shrivelled and emaciated, or even a face that shines with too much red color. Who would not mock a woman made up in such a way that she displays an unbecoming face, false teeth, false hair, and simulated height? Indeed, we might even wish her dead.
For the original, see book one of Huet's De Interpretatione Libri Duo (The Hague: Arnold Leers, 1683), pp. 16-17.

8 February 2018

The Courage to Be Ignorant

Sydney Smith, "On the Conduct of the Understanding," Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1855), p. 99:
Then there is another piece of foppery which is to be cautiously guarded against — the foppery of universality, — of knowing all sciences and excelling in all arts, — chemistry, mathematics, algebra, dancing, history, reasoning, riding, fencing, Low Dutch, High Dutch, natural philosophy, and enough Spanish to talk about Lope de Vega : in short, the modern precept of education very often is, "Take the Admirable Crichton for your model ; I would have you ignorant of nothing!" Now my advice, on the contrary, is, to have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of every thing.

5 February 2018

Rather Impressionist Than Pre-Raphaelite

Sir Thomas Herbert Warren, "The Art of Translation," Essays of Poets and Poetry (London: John Murray, 1909), pp. 85-133 (at pp. 105-106):
A good translation should read like an original. Why? Because the original reads like an original....

And to read like an original, a translation must be idiomatic in the language in which it is written. Thus, as Jowett says, "The first requisite of an English translation is that it be English." This is the canon which is most frequently transgressed by translators. It is the non-observance of it which at once separates off and condemns the mass of inferior translations. All who have any large acquaintance with translations are familiar with what may be called "translation English," a language which is neither English nor Greek nor Latin, French nor German, but something between the two. The grosser forms of it do not need to be pointed out. "Pigeon English," "English as she is spoke," these we all know; as again all teachers know the "translation English" of the fourth-form boy. The subtler, less obvious forms of it are just those which distinguish inferior translations. How often, when we read a translation, do we not feel that no one could write thus unless he had been translating? — a feeling which at once pro tanto, if our canon be good, condemns the work.

Now, if a translation is to be idiomatic, since the idioms of different languages differ, it is obvious that a literal translation is at once condemned. Here, as elsewhere, the letter killeth, the spirit giveth life. A really good translation should be not so much exact as faithful. It should not be free, but it should be, what is the same thing with a difference, liberal. It should be, in the language of Painting, not perhaps exactly Impressionist, but rather Impressionist than Pre-Raphaelite.
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1 February 2018

Deutsche Sprache, Schöne Sprache

Enoch Powell, "Sentimental Journey," in Reflections of a Statesman (London: Bellew, 1991), p. 104:
I remember, as sharply as Keats recalled first looking into Chapman's Homer, the moment — it must have been in 1927 — when I opened my first German book. Here was the language I had dreamt of but never knew existed: sharp, hard, strict but with words which were romance in themselves, words in which poetry and music vibrated together. 

Id., p. 108:
[O]ne dived in and out of the mighty river of German nineteenth-century philosophy — itself, despite the often less than sensuous language clothing it, as much poetry as pure reason. In particular, for one torn between myth and reality, poetry and prose, Schopenhauer was unavoidable. His World as Will and Imagination was consumed in half-hour stretches day by day on Sydney tramcars that clanged their way through the hot Australian sunlight.

Id., p. 109 (on Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen):
Siegfried's was also the voice which proclaimed one of the great moral discoveries of humanity: that it is better to die than to live in fear. The moment when Siegfried, about to restore the ring to the Rhinemaidens, thrusts it back onto his finger because, once he knows that the curse attaches to it, his act would be tainted with fear, from which he can only regain freedom by deliberately incurring he curse, is one of the supreme moments in literature — the pagan counterpart of the Crucifixion itself. 
When Powell was a guest on BBC Radio's Desert Island Disks, he chose four pieces by Wagner, three by Beethoven, and one by Haydn. He discussed his fondness for Wagner at some length.

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

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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
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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.

7 December 2017

Social Media Are a Waste of Time

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.4, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 21:
Do not waste what is left of life in regarding other men, except when bent upon some unselfish gain. Why miss opportunities for action by thus persistently regarding what so-and-so is doing and why, what he is saying or thinking or planning, or anything else that dazes and distracts you from allegiance to your Inner Self?
A related post: Facebook Is a Kind of Self-Prostitution

5 December 2017

An Unedifying Phenomenon

Carl Hilty, "On the Knowledge of Men," The Steps of Life, tr. Melvin Brandow (London: Macmillan & Co., 1907), p. 79:
Every man should perfect his own national type. When a man no longer knows to which nation he belongs, he becomes an unedifying phenomenon. Therefore dwellers on the border are often vacillating in their nature, and polyglot speech is, as a rule, a mark neither of genius nor of character. The most questionable people are those who mingle different languages in a single sentence and who lack education besides.

28 November 2017

The Style Is the Man

Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), p. 103:
So long as you prefer abstract words, which express other men's summarised concepts of things, to concrete ones which lie as near as can be reached to things themselves and are the first-hand material for your thoughts, you will remain, at the best, writers at second-hand. If your language be Jargon, your intellect, if not your whole character, will almost certainly correspond. Where your mind should go straight, it will dodge: the difficulties it should approach with a fair front and grip with a firm hand it will be seeking to evade or circumvent. For the Style is the Man, and where a man's treasure is there his heart, and his brain, and his writing, will be also.
Related posts:

  • Gobbledygook
  • Mumbo Jumbo
  • The Indistinctness of Their Own Conceptions
  • 23 November 2017

    The Canker of Commercialism

    Walter Crane, Ideals in Art (London: George Bell & Sons, 1905), pp. 84-86:
    We may escape the town by train, or motor — running the risk, in either case, of a smash — but we cannot escape commercial enterprise. The very trees and houses sprout with business-cards, and the landscape along some of our principal railways seems owned by vendors of drugs. Turning away our eyes from such annoyances, commercial competition again has us, in alluring us by all sorts and sizes in papers and magazines, which, like paper kites, can only maintain their position by an extensive tail. The tail — that is, the advertisements — keeps the kites flying, and the serial tale keeps the advertisements going perhaps, and the reader is obliged to take his news and views, social or political, sandwiched or flavoured with very various and unsought and unwanted condiments, pictorial or otherwise, which certainly ruin artistic effect. Thus public attention is diverted and nobody minds! But it is in these ways that the materials of life — whereof the sense of beauty and its gratification is no unimportant part — are destroyed, as it were, in getting our living — well, perhaps it would be truer to say, in some cases, a substantial percentage on our investments.

    In obedience to the rule of the great God Trade, too, whole districts of our fair country are blighted and blackened, and whole populations are condemned to mechanical and monotonous toil to support the international race for the precarious world-market.

    Under the same desperate compulsion of commercial competition, agriculture declines and the country-side is deserted. The old country life with its festivals and picturesque customs has disappeared. Old houses, churches, and cottages have tumbled into ruin, or have suffered worse destruction by a process of smartening-up called "restoration." The people have crowded into the overcrowded towns, increasing the competition for employment, the chances of which are lessened by the very industry of the working-classes themselves, andsoourgreat cities become blindly huger, dangerous, and generally unlovely, losing, too, by degrees, the relics of historic interest and romance they once possessed.

    Even in the arts and among the very cultivators of beauty we detect the canker of commercialism. The compulsion of the market rules supply and demand. The idea of the shop dominates picture shows, and painters become as specialized as men of science, and genius requires as much puffing as a patent medicine. Every one must have his trade label, and woe to the artist who experiments, or discovers capacities for other things than his label covers.


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    21 November 2017

    Money Is Time

    George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft  (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), pp. 270-271:
    Time is money — says the vulgarest saw known to any age or people. Turn it round about, and you get a precious truth — money is time. I think of it on these dark, mist-blinded mornings, as I come down to find a glorious fire crackling and leaping in my study. Suppose I were so poor that I could not afford that heartsome blaze, how different the whole day would be! Have I not lost many and many a day of my life for lack of the material comfort which was necessary to put my mind in tune? Money is time. With money I buy for cheerful use the hours which otherwise would not in any sense be mine; nay, which would make me their miserable bondsman. Money is time, and, heaven be thanked, there needs so little of it for this sort of purchase. He who has overmuch is wont to be as badly off in regard to the true use of money, as he who has not enough. What are we doing all our lives but purchasing, or trying to purchase, time? And most of us, having grasped it with one hand, throw it away with the other.

    20 November 2017

    Feeding the Mind

    Lewis Carroll, Feeding the Mind (London: Chatto & Windus, 1907), pp. 22-25:
    Having settled the proper kind, amount, and variety of our mental food, it remains that we should be careful to allow proper intervals between meal and meal, and not swallow the food hastily without mastication, so that it may be thoroughly digested; both which rules, for the body, are also applicable at once to the mind.

    First, as to the intervals: these are as really necessary as they are for the body, with this difference only, that while the body requires three or four hours’ rest before it is ready for another meal, the mind will in many cases do with three or four minutes. I believe that the interval required is much shorter than is generally supposed, and from personal experience, I would recommend anyone, who has to devote several hours together to one subject of thought, to try the effect of such a break, say once an hour, leaving off for five minutes only each time, but taking care to throw the mind absolutely ‘out of gear’ for those five minutes, and to turn it entirely to other subjects. It is astonishing what an amount of impetus and elasticity the mind recovers during those short periods of rest.

    And then, as to the mastication of the food, the mental process answering to this is simply thinking over what we read. This is a very much greater exertion of mind than the mere passive taking in the contents of our Author. So much greater an exertion is it, that, as Coleridge says, the mind often ‘angrily refuses’ to put itself to such trouble — so much greater, that we are far too apt to neglect it altogether, and go on pouring in fresh food on the top of the undigested masses already lying there, till the unfortunate mind is fairly swamped under the flood. But the greater the exertion the more valuable, we may be sure, is the effect. One hour of steady thinking over a subject (a solitary walk is as good an opportunity for the process as any other) is worth two or three of reading only.

    17 November 2017

    The Immortals

    William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Vol. I (New York: Macmillan, 1905), pp. 158-159.
    Once, in a studio conclave, some of us drew up a declaration that there was no immortality for humanity except that which was gained by man's own genius or heroism. We were still under the influence of Voltaire, Gibbon, Byron, and Shelley, and we could leave no corners or spaces in our minds unsearched and unswept. Our determination to respect no authority that stood in the way of fresh research in art seemed to compel us to try what the result would be in matters metaphysical, denying all that could not be tangibly proved. We agreed that there were different degrees of glory in great men, and that these grades should be denoted by one, two, or three stars. Ordinary children of men fulfilled their work by providing food, clothing, and tools for their fellows; some, who did not engage in the labour of the earth, had allowed their minds to work without the ballast of common-sense, and some of these had done evil, but the few far-seeing ones revealed to us vast visions of beauty. Where these dreams were too profound for our sight to fathom, our new iconoclasm dictated that such were too little substantial for human trust; for of spiritual powers we for the moment felt we knew nothing, and we saw no profit in relying upon a vision, however beautiful it might be. 

    Hat tip: Madeleine Emerald Thiele

    14 November 2017

    Immutable Destiny

    Alfred Sensier, Jean-François Millet: Peasant and Painter, tr. Helena de Kay (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1881), p. 111
    The new rustic art of [Jean-François] Millet had made the young men think; at once literal and imaginative, it roused in some minds a whole world of political and social problems. Some called him the brother of Pierre Dupont, the singer of peasants, and the eloquent ally of Lachambeaudie, the novelist of the sorrows of the people. "The Sower" cursed the rich, they said, because he flung his grain with anger toward the sky. Every one talked of the artist's work, and tried to make it a weapon. But Millet did not consider himself so important or so revolutionary. No subversive idea troubled his brain. Socialistic doctrines he would not listen to; the little that came to his ears, he said, was not clear. He often said: "My programme is work. 'Thou shalt gain thy bread in the sweat of thy brow' was written centuries ago. Immutable destiny, which none may change! What every one ought to do is to find progress in his profession, to try ever to do better, to be strong and clever in his trade, and be greater than his neighbor in talent and conscientiousness in his work. That for me is the only path. The rest is dream or calculation." 

    Jean-François Millet, Le Semeur (1850)

    From La vie et l'oeuvre de J.-F. Millet  (Paris: A. Quantin, 1881), pp. 156-157:
    Le nouvel art rustique de Millet avait fait réfléchir la jeunesse; cette traduction, réelle et pensive tout à la fois, avait suscité dans l'imagination de certaines gens tout un monde de pensées politiques et sociales. Les uns prétendaient que Millet était en peinture le frère de Pierre Dupont, le chantre des paysans, l'éloquent allié de Lachambaudie, le fabuliste des misères du peuple. Le Semeur maudissait, disait-on, la condition du riche, puisqu'il lançait avec colère son grain vers le ciel. Chacun commentait l'œuvre de l'artiste et essayait de s'en faire une arme. Millet ne se croyait ni si important, ni si révolutionnaire.

    Devenir un peintre de la Jacquerie, c'était trop compliqué pour lui. Nulle idée subversive ne bouillonnait en lui. Des doctrines sociales, il ne voulait en connaître aucune. Le peu qu'il en avait entendu dire ne lui semblait pas clair. Et il répétait souvent : « Mon programme, c'est le travail, car tout homme est voué à la peine du corps. Tu vivras à la sueur de ton front, est-il écrit depuis des siècles: destinée immuable qui ne changera pas! Ce que tout le monde devrait faire, c'est de chercher le progrès dans sa profession, c'est de s'efforcer à toujours faire mieux, à devenir fort et habile dans son métier et à surpasser son voisin par son talent et sa conscience au travail. C'est pour moi la seule voie. Le reste est rêverie ou calcul. »

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    9 November 2017

    The Death of Ethical Principles

    Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), p. 41:
    [In Either/Or] I believe Kierkegaard asserts ... [that] the aesthetic [way of life] can be chosen seriously, although the burden of choosing it can be as passion-ridden as that of choosing the ethical [way of life]. I think especially of those young men of my father’s generation who watched their own earlier ethical principles die along with the deaths of their friends in the trenches in the mass murder of Ypres and the Somme; and who returned determined that nothing was ever going to matter to them again and invented the aesthetic triviality of the nineteen-twenties.

    Alfred Bastien, Canadian Gunners in the Mud (1917)

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    8 November 2017

    Seriously or Not at All

    John Ruskin, "Ideals of Beauty," Modern Painters, Vol. II (New York: John W. Lovell Company, 1885), p. 191:
    Art, properly so called, is no recreation, it cannot be learned at spare moments, nor pursued when we have nothing better to do. It is no handiwork for drawing-room tables; no relief of the ennui of boudoirs; it must be understood and undertaken seriously or not at all. To advance it men's lives must be given, and to receive it their hearts.

    2 November 2017

    Hank on Potheads

    From a clip of Barbet Schroeder's The Charles Bukowski Tapes :
    Interviewer: What do you think of drugs versus alcohol?

    Charles Bukowski: Ah, my favourite subject. I think a man can keep on drinking for centuries and he'll never die, especially wine and beer. But I've met too many young people, especially when I was working for Open City, just smoking marijuana, within a two year period, who were intelligent at first and after two years of marijuana they just came around going [airhead voice]: "Haaaaaaay! Haaaaaaay! How you doooing?"

    I'm going to be one of the first to say that marijuana is very, ultimately, destructive. And then, finally, there'll be government studies to prove that it's totally harmful, much more harmful than it's ever been exposed to have been. Because I've seen it through people, they just end up [airhead voice]: "Haaaaaay...haaaaaaay..." And I don't like that. I like drunkards, man, because drunkards, they come out of it, they're sick and they spring back, they spring back and forth. But even the light drug freaks, they're just [airhead voice]: "Okaaaay. Okaaaay." It's like all mind circulation and all spirit has been cut off....

    Alcohol gives you the release of the dream without the deadness of the drugs. You know, you can come back down. You have your hangover to face, that's the tough part. You get over it, you do your job, you come back, you drink again. I'm all for alcohol, I'll tell ya. It's the thing.

    30 October 2017

    Clinched Nails Stick

    C. A. L. Richards, "Books and Reading,"The Protestant Episcopal Review, Vol. 8 (June 1895), pp. 503-526 (at p. 523):
    A wise reader, I think, makes much use of a note book as he reads, and if he is a very wise reader it will be a notebook and not a stray scrap of paper, which he will presently lose or destroy. The fact or thought noted today may be of worth to you twenty years to come. Even if your scraps be not lost or destroyed, they may be hopelessly disarranged. An accident may throw into confusion the careful note taking of a year's work on an important theme, and the chaos be too complete to be dealt with, and out of those huddled heaps no creation be possible. But the habit of note taking is invaluable. It compels you to read with your whole mind and think as you read. It fastens things in your note book and on your memory. It gives you permanent hold of what is best in volumes you may never open again. Burke was said to read as if he should never see his book a second time. A late Governor of Ohio, now President of a Western University, noted for the range of his reading and his full command of what he had read, told me that early in life he discovered that to read a book intelligently with immediate possession of its contents required for him a certain amount of time and effort. If he stopped then, the results of his reading gradually oozed away from him. But a very little added time and effort, a little exacter analysis, more thorough review and meditation, made him master of his book or what he valued in it for all time to come. He did not trust its contents to sink into his memory by its own weight. He drove it home and clinched it. And clinched nails stick.
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    26 October 2017

    Beautiful Tools

    Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1923):
    I love the tools made for mechanics. I stop at the windows of hardware stores. If I could only find an excuse to buy many more of them than I have already bought on the mere pretense that I might have use for them! They are so beautiful, so simple and plain and straight to their meaning. There is no “Art” about them, they have not been made beautiful, they are beautiful.
    I haven't posted anything this week because I spent all my free time working on my bathroom. (What is the best way to lift a 300lb cast iron tub, you ask? Try using the emergency scissor jack from your car.) If I had to name a beautiful tool this evening it would be the 10 inch Knipex pliers-wrench with ratcheting, smooth parallel jaws (1¾ inch capacity) that won't chew up metal surfaces. An ingenious design, and it's impossible to imagine life without one now. I don't cycle as much as I used to, but I still covet the pricey 5 inch mini version to keep in my backpack.


    In Deutschland hergestellt

    On the off chance anyone else has an old clawfoot bathtub, I can also recommend the Magic Eraser. I've tried everything from vinegar to denture tablets, but only Mr. Clean was able to remove decades of iron stains and restore it to a gleaming white.

    Not unrelated posts:

    21 October 2017

    The Wise Man Stays at Home

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance," Emerson's Complete Works, Vol. II (London: The Waverley Book Company Ltd., 1898), pp. 79-80:
    It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for ail educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.

    I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.

    Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples; and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
     Related posts:

    19 October 2017

    Original Sin

    Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 248:
    In our ignorance and complacency, we deride ancient stories about the nature of evil – equate them half-consciously with childish things best put away. This is an exceedingly arrogant position. There is no evidence whatsoever that we understand the nature of evil any better than our forebears, despite our psychology, even though our expanded technological power has made us much more dangerous when we are possessed. Our ancestors were at least constantly concerned with the problem of evil. Acceptance of the harsh Christian dogma of Original Sin, for example (despite its pessimism and apparent inequity) at least meant recognition of evil; meant some comprehension of the tendency towards evil as an intrinsic, heritable aspect of human nature. From the perspective informed by belief in Original Sin, individual actions and motivations must always be carefully scrutinized and considered – even when apparently benevolent – lest the ever-present adversarial tendencies “accidentally” gain the upper hand. The dogma of Original Sin forces every individual to regard himself as the (potential) immediate source of evil – to locate the terrible underworld of mythology and its denizens in intrapsychic space. It is no wonder that this idea has become unpopular: nonetheless, evil exists somewhere. It remains difficult not to see hypocrisy in the souls of those who wish to localize it somewhere else.

    16 October 2017

    Faithful Obedience to a Natural Vocation

    J. R. Seeley, "Wilhelm Meister," Goethe; Reviewed After Sixty Years (London: Seeley and Co. Ltd., 1894), pp. 127-128:
    What was Goethe's vocation? Or, since happiness consists in faithful obedience to a natural vocation, what was Goethe's happiness? His happiness is a kind of religion, a perpetual rapt contemplation, a beatific vision. The object of this contemplation is Nature, the laws or order of the Universe to which we belong. Of such contemplation he recognizes two kinds, one of which he calls Art and the other Science. He was in the habit of thinking that in Art and Science taken together he possessed an equivalent for what other men call their religion.

    12 October 2017

    German Scholarship

    H. Ogram Matuce, pseudonym of Charles Francis Keary (1848–1917), A Wanderer (London: Keegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1888), pp. 94-95:
    A German student takes up some object of study in the same spirit in which a commonplace man takes up the collection of birds and butterflies. His object is to get together all that has been said or written upon that pin-point of a subject. Whether it is useful or useless it is all fish for his net. It goes to swell the appearance of learning in his pamphlet. One can imagine the fascination of this sort of specimen hunting; and as, so far as I can see, it involves no great exercise of thought or criticism, it can be laid down and taken up again at any moment. I can fancy the professor going through his piles of books and indexes in search of, say, any mention of knucklebones from Greek days downwards. I day say it requires an ingenuity, a practised scent, to detect the traces of your quarry. And in order to make the sport the better, German writers rarely indulge in indexes. But at day's end the student can lay aside his task with as much ease as the bottle-maker can leave off his blowing, and can turn to his beer and Kegelspiel with an even mind.

    Yet, as companions in the daytime, as mute figures, I mean, grouped about the University Library, you could not have desired better. I grew to love them less for their individual qualities than as you may grow to love the furniture of a room for its associations and suggestiveness.

    Georg Mühlberg, Cantus (c. 1900)
    The bandage? Mensur.

    10 October 2017

    The Loneliness of the Soul in Adolescence

    Julian Barnes, Levels of Life (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2013), p. 111:
    There are two essential kinds of loneliness: that of not having found someone to love, and that of having been deprived of the one you did love. The first kind is worse. Nothing can compare to the loneliness of the soul in adolescence. 

    3 October 2017

    A Charming and Interesting Task

    Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door  (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1907), pp. 240-241:
    What a charming and interesting task there is for some critic of catholic tastes and sympathetic judgment to undertake rescue work among the lost books which would repay salvage! A small volume setting forth their names and their claims to attention would be interesting in itself, and more interesting in the material to which it would serve as an introduction. I am sure there are many good books, possibly there are some great ones, which have been swept away for a time in the rush. What chance, for example, has any book by an unknown author which is published at a moment of great national excitement, when some public crisis arrests the popular mind? Hundreds have been still-born in this fashion, and are there none which should have lived among them?
    A related post: Maugham on Posterity

    26 September 2017

    Bad Art and Bad Manners

    Norman MacCaig, at about the 7 minute mark in the film A Man in My Position:
    Interviewer: Lucidity, is this an important word for you?

    MacCaig: I think it is, very much so. I don't mind a poem being difficult, if the poem is about a thing that is difficult to say. But if a poem seems to me willfully obscure, or obscure because the man has not got his mind clear about what he is writing about, then, to use a phrase I have used before, I consider it to be not only bad art, but bad manners, because poetry is surely a communication.
    A related post: A Fool's Trick