565: The Living Are Under the Dominion of the Dead.

To go into a library is like the wandering into some great cathedral church and looking at the monuments on the walls. Every one there was in his or her day the pattern of all the virtues, the best father, the tenderest wife, the most devoted child. Never were such soldiers and sailors as those whose crossed swords or gallant ships are graven in marble above their tombs; every dead sovereign was virtuous as Marcus Aurelius, every bishop as blameless as Berkeley. The inscriptions are all of the kind which George IV. put on the statue of George III. at the end of the “Long Walk” at Windsor. Having embittered his father’s life while that father had mind enough to know the baseness of his son, he called him “pater optimus” best of fathers! This same George, it may be said in a parenthesis, gave to the library of Eton School, not such a tomb of dead books as is the library of Eton College, the dead Delphin Classics, which have been well described as “the useless present of a royal rake.”

Yet those names so forgotten which meet us in the Church were not without their influence. If there be one statement more than another to be disputed among those made by Shakespeare’s Mark Antony it is —

“The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones.”

It has a truth, but a less truth than that the good more often lives, and passes into other lives to be renewed and carried forward with fresh vigour in the coming age. Were it not so the human race would steadily deteriorate, weltering down into a black and brutal corruption, ever quickening, if at all, into lower forms. As it is we know that the race, with all its imperfections, “moves upward, working out the beast, and lets the ape and tiger die.” The great men stand like stars at distant intervals, individuals grander, perhaps, than ever will be again, each in his own way; but still the average level of every succeeding age is higher than that which went before it. We may never again have an Homer, Aristotle, Archimedes, St. Paul, Cæsar, or Charlemagne; but in all things those great ones who forecast philosophy, or science, or mediæval civilization bear sway over us still, — “the living are under the dominion of the dead.” Those lesser forgotten ones of whom we have spoken have carried on the torch of life in his or her own home circle, were influential even if not widely known, and have helped to make humanity what she is and will be, — our lady, our mistress, our mother, and our queen.

It is the same with literature. The shelves of a library are catacombs. There stand out among the dead who are yet alive such names, to speak only of more modem days, as Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, “on whose forehead climb the crowns o’ the world. O! eyes sublime, With tears and laughter for all time”; there too are ”the ingenious” Mr. This, or “the celebrated” Mr. That, now forgotten. But they too have formed the literature which is ours. Does a modem strive after originality, ten chances to one his best things have been said before him; the only true originality is to reconstruct, recast, and transmit, with just the additions enforced by the special circumstances of the time. Again: “the living are under the dominion of the dead.”

(C. Kegan Paul, “The Production and Life of Books,The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XXXIX, 1883, pp. 497–499).

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565: The Living Are Under the Dominion of the Dead.

564: 2.400 Years.

Stove is not always convincing. […] His intolerance for balderdash sometimes led him drastically to undervalue the achievements of other philosophers. It is understandable that he should despise deliberately mystifying writers like Hegel and Heidegger — whatever their virtues, both were addicted to opacity. But it will hardly do to dismiss Plato (“that scourge of the human mind”) and Kant (for example) as overrated poseurs. In such cases, Stove’s impatience led him into caricature. “Plato’s discovery,” Stove writes, “went as follows”:

It is possible for something to be a certain way and for something else to be the same way.

So

There are universals.

(Tumultuous applause, which lasts, despite occasional subsidences, 2,400 years.)

(Roger Kimball, “Who Was David Stove?,” The New Criterion, Vol. XV, No. 7, p. 21).

564: 2.400 Years.

563: What Lives in Literature, Dies in Journalism.

Wherever society abides, it uses a mode of speech proper to its state; and the mode of speech of the material plane is the newspaper. The characteristic utterance of the spiritual plane, on the other hand, is literature. But, owing to our unspirituality, literature for the time being languishes. Journalism, the lower voice, attempts to counterfeit the tones of the higher, but the result is counterfeit. So long as journalism attends to its own (material) business, it is not only harmless, but useful; but as soon as it would usurp what is organically above it, it becomes hurtful; not only because it does not give us what it pretends to give, but because the plausibility of that pretence may lead us to accept it as genuine, and thus atrophy the faculties whereby literature, the true voice of the spiritual, is apprehended.

(Julian Hawthorne, “Journalism the Destroyer of Literature,” The Critic, Vol. XLVIII, 1906, pp. 166–167).

563: What Lives in Literature, Dies in Journalism.

562: The Language of One’s Own Thought.

Thinking is not speaking. It is a very difficult thing to discover and acquire the language of one’s own thought. Each separate individual is very likely original in his thought. But between his thought and its fit expression the well established common language stands like an enormous, impenetrable wall, like an all-devouring monster, like a steam-roller levelling everything down. Only the whole strength of love, only a loving strength, and strength joined to humility and devotion can make it personal, and yet in such a way that it remains the common tongue.

(Theodor Haecker, Journal in the Night. New York: Pantheon Books, 1950, p. 100).

562: The Language of One’s Own Thought.

561: A Dark Night of the Soul.

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.

(Flannery O’Connor, Letter to Betty Hester, September 6, 1955).

561: A Dark Night of the Soul.

560: The Proudest Moment of Their Lives.

In England, the charm of standing one round higher on the social ladder than your neighbours is so irresistible that, if a Member of Parliament were obliged to dance upon his head for the amusement of his constituents, it is probable that men of fortune and independence would be found to do it, and to assure the spectators that the time devoted to the feat was the proudest moment of their lives.

(Lord Salisbury, “The Labours of the Recess,” The Saturday Review, Vol. XVI, No. 426, 1863, p. 799).

560: The Proudest Moment of Their Lives.

559: Ideals.

It is in pursuit of ideals that wars ravage the world, and every idealist has a portable rack and thumb-screw in his dressing-bag. As Anatole France says: “Robespierre was an optimist who believed in virtue. If you want to make men perfect you end, like Robespierre, by desiring to guillotine them. Marat believed in justice and demanded 200,000 heads.”

(H.C. Biron, “Dr. Johnson and Women,The Fortnightly Review, Vol. CVI, 1919, p. 309).

559: Ideals.