Why cannot the modernists live and let live? Do they think that by eating their grandfathers they will acquire all their virtue and reputation? It was not always so. Literature presents the spectacle of a long procession of great writers holding by each others’ robes, and, incidentally, with their hands in each others’ pockets. Virgil pays Homer the flattery of continuous imitation. To Dante, Virgil is the highest type of human reason. Milton bows to “blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides.” Even the leaders of a rival school, the earlier rationalists and realists, were true to their forbears. Voltaire held by the Greek tragedians. Pope and Dr. Johnson edited Shakespeare and praised him nobly. The great writers of the last century, — Goethe, Hugo, Scott, Tennyson, — prostrated themselves before their predecessors. Thackeray wanted to black Shakespeare’s boots. In general, every one who has become an idol has been an idolater.
(Charles Leonard Moore, “The ‘Waning’ Classics,” The Dial, Vol. LX, 1916, p. 71).
“We cannot understand what we do not love.”
War, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. […] A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.
(John Stuart Mill, “The Contest in America,” Fraser’s Magazine, Vol. LXV, 1862, p. 268).
The ugliness that comes from an individual way of seeing, or from the absence of adequate means, is attractive: it is disinterested. The ugliness that comes of a general way of living, or from the use of superfluous means, is repellent, and it is utilitarian. The one is grotesque, the other vulgar. There is a difference between the gargoyle and the advertisement.
(Edith Sichel, New and Old. London: Constable and Company, 1917, p. 74).
Where the purpose of glass is to be seen through, we do not want it tinted nor wavy. In certain kinds of poetry the case may be slightly different; such, for instance, as are intended to display the powers of association and combination in the writer, and to invite and exercise the compass and comprehension of the intelligent… Great painters have always the same task to perform. What is excellent in their art cannot be thought excellent by many, even of those who reason well on ordinary matters, and see clearly beauties elsewhere. All correct perceptions are the effect of careful practice. We little doubt that a mirror would direct us in the most familiar of our features, and that our hand would follow its guidance, until we try to cut a lock of our hair. We have no such criterion to demonstrate our liability to error in judging of poetry; a quality so rare that perhaps no five contemporaries ever were masters of it.
(Walter Savage Landor, Aphorisms. London: George Allen, 1897, pp. 165–166).
They who crouch to those who are above them, always trample on those who are below them.
(Henry Thomas Buckle, History of Civilization in England, Vol. 2. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1884, p. 213).
Every truth, once it is formulated, loses some of its integrity, verges toward a lie.
(Alphonse Daudet, “Notes on Life.” In: The Novels, Romances, and Memoirs of Alphonse Daudet, Vol. 14. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1904, p. 215).