695: Vulgar.

Lest I should forget to mention it, I put down here a rebuke which, later in his life, Sir Walter once gave in my hearing to his daughter Anne. She happened to say of something, I forget what, that she could not abide it — it was vulgar. “My love,” said her father, “you speak like a very young lady; do you know, after all, the meaning of this word vulgar?” “‘Tis only common; nothing that is common, except wickedness, can deserve to be spoken of in a tone of contempt; and when you have lived to my years, you will be disposed to agree with me in thanking God that nothing really worth having or caring about in this world is uncommon.”

(John Gibson Lockhart, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, Vol. 8. Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1902, p. 26).

Anúncios
695: Vulgar.

694: A Secret.

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. London: Chapman & Hall, 1919, p. 12).

694: A Secret.

693: Uma Celebração da Inutilidade.

As gravatas são uma celebração da inutilidade. São uma forma de dizermos: sim, eu sei que isto não passa de um trapo colorido sem nenhum valor utilitário. Mas o mundo que habitamos, quando despido de qualquer coloração humana, também não passa de uma evidência física incapaz de transportar qualquer sentido, ou beleza, ou eternidade. Os quadros que amamos são uma mistela de tintas sobre linho: um amontoado de átomos sem nenhuma expressão humana particular. Mas quando os vemos com um olhar grato e deslumbrado, a evidência da tinta desaparece por trás de deuses ou heróis que tomam literalmente conta do quadro. Um traço de tinta é agora um braço; a folhagem perdida de uma vista; o nevoeiro que vem e tudo cobre. E o que ficam são histórias e mais histórias: de como Vénus nasceu das águas. De como Deus tocou no dedo dos Homens e lhes deu vida e imortalidade. De como a névoa chegou a Veneza e tudo cobriu de tristeza e melancolia. Sim, Veneza: aquele amontoado de casas. De pedras, cimento, tijolo. De becos, canais e ruelas, para usarmos a descrição científica, e cientificamente rigorosa, que horrorizava Proust com a força de uma blasfémia. Mas Veneza é também lugar, e memória.

(João Pereira Coutinho, “Em Defesa da Gravata,” Atlântico, 14 de Junho de 2008).

693: Uma Celebração da Inutilidade.

692: Read Anything.

If any young person of leisure were so much at a loss as to ask advice as to what he should read, mine should be exceedingly simple: Read anything bearing on a definite object. Let him take up any imaginable subject to which he feels attracted, be it the precession of the equinoxes or postage stamps, the Athenian drama or London street cries; let him follow it from book to book, and unconsciously his knowledge, not of that subject only but of many subjects, will be increased, for the departments of the realm of knowledge are divided by no octroi. He may abandon the first object of his pursuit for another; it does not matter, one subject leads to another: he will have learnt the habit of acquisition; he will have gained that conviction of the pricelessness of time which stirs a sigh as each day comes to its close.

(Sir Herbert Maxwell, Post Meridiana: Afternoon Essays. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1895, p. 200).

692: Read Anything.

691: The Most Intimate of Forms.

Though an essay must state a proposition, there are other requirements to be fulfilled. The bones of subject and predicate must be clothed in a certain way. The basis of the essay is meditation, and it must in a measure admit the reader to the meditative process. (This procedure is frankly hinted in all those titles that used to begin with “Of” or “On”: “Of Truth,” “Of Riches,” “On the Graces and Anxieties of Pig-Driving,” “On the Knocking at the Gate in ‘Macbeth’,” “On the Enjoyment of Unpleasant Places”). An essay, to some extent, thinks aloud; though not in the loose and pointless way to which the “stream of consciousness” addicts have accustomed us. The author must have made up his mind otherwise, where is his proposition? But the essay, I think, should show how and why he made up his mind as he did; should engagingly rehearse the steps by which he came to his conclusions. (“Francis of Verulam reasoned thus with himself”.) Meditation; but an oriented and fruitful meditation.

This is the most intimate of forms, because it permits you to see a mind at work. On the quality and temper of that mind depends the goodness of the production. Now, if the essay is essentially meditative, it cannot be polemical. No one, I think, would call Cicero’s first oration against Catiline an essay; or Burke’ s Speech on the Conciliation of America; hardly more could we call Swift’s “Modest Proposal” a true essay. The author must have made up his mind, but when he has made it up with a vengeance, he will not produce an essay. Because the  process is meditative, the manner should be courteous; he should always, by implication, admit that there are good people who may not agree with him; his irony should never turn to the sardonic. Reasonableness, urbanity (as Matthew Arnold would have said) are prerequisites for a form whose temper is meditative rather than polemical. We have said that this is the most intimate of forms. Not only for technical reasons, though obviously the essayist is less sharply controlled by his structure than the dramatist or the sonneteer or even the novelist. It is the most intimate because it is the most subjective. When people talk of “creative” and “critical” writing dividing all literature thus they always call the essay critical. In spite of Oscar Wilde, to call it critical is probably correct; for creation implies objectivity. The created thing, though the author have torn its raw substance from his very vitals, ends by being separate from its creator. The essay, however, is incurably subjective; even “Wuthering Heights” or “Manfred” is less subjective strange though it sound than “The Function of Criticism” or “The Poetic Principle.” What Oscar Wilde really meant in “The Critic as Artist” if, that is, you hold him back from his own perversities is not that Pater’s essay on Leonardo da Vinci was more creative than many a novel, but that it was more subjective than any novel; that Pater, by virtue of his style and his mentality, made of his conception of the Mona Lisa something that we could be interested in, regardless of our opinion of the painting. I do not remember that Pater saw himself as doing more than explain to us what he thought Leonardo had done Pater, I think, would never have regarded his purple page as other than criticism. I, myself because I like the fall of Pater’s words, and do not much care for Mona Lisa’s feline face prefer Pater’s page to Leonardo’s portrait; but I am quite aware that I am merely preferring criticism, in this instance, to the thing criticized. I am, if you like, preferring Mr. Pecksniff’s drunken dream “Mrs. Todgers’s idea of a wooden leg” to the wooden leg itself. Anything (I say to myself) rather than a wooden leg!

A lot of nineteenth century “impressionistic” criticism Jules Lemaitre, Anatole France, etc. is more delightful than the prose or verse that is being criticized. It is none the less criticism. The famous definition of “the adventures of a soul among the masterpieces” does not put those adventures into the “creative” category; it merely stresses their subjectivity. Wilde is to some extent right when he says that criticism is the only civilized form of autobiography; but he is not so right when he says that the highest criticism is more creative than creation. No one would deny that the purple page Wilde quotes tells us more about Pater than it does about Leonardo, or even about Mona Lisa as Macaulay’s Essay on Milton conceivably tells us more about Macaulay than about the author of “Paradise Lost.” All Bacon’s essays together but build up a portrait of Bacon Francis of Verulam reasoning with himself; and what is the substance of the Essays of Elia, but Elia? “Subjective” is the word, however, rather than “creative.”

(Katharine Fullerton Gerould, “An Essay on Essays,” The North American Review, Vol. CCXL, 1935, pp. 412–414).

691: The Most Intimate of Forms.

690: Like Trying to Paint a Soul.

Of all inorganic substances, acting in their own proper nature and without assistance or combination, water is the most wonderful. If we think of it as the source of all the changefulness and beauty which we have seen in clouds; then as the instrument by which the earth we have contemplated was modelled into symmetry, and its crags chiselled into grace; then as, in the form of snow, it robes the mountains it has made with that transcendent light which we could not have conceived if we had not seen; then as it exists in the foam of the torrent, in the iris which spans it, in the morning mist which rises from it, in the deep crystalline pools which mirror its hanging shore, in the broad lake and glancing river; finally, in that which is to all human minds the best emblem of unwearied unconquerable power, the wild, various, fantastic, tameless unity of the sea; what shall we compare to this mighty, this universal element, for glory and for beauty? or how shall we follow its eternal changefulness of feeling? It is like trying to paint a soul.

(John Ruskin, Modern Painters, Vol. I. London: George Allen, 1903, p. 494).

690: Like Trying to Paint a Soul.