660: Miserable Creature.

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).

Anúncios
660: Miserable Creature.

659: Ugliness.

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).

659: Ugliness.

655: Genius Cannot Popularize Itself.

While, in order to win popularity and immediate success, it appears to be a necessity to write to a probable public, it is no less true that the greatest minds — those which have influenced the thought, not of individuals, but of the race — have simply written out what was in them; written not for popularity nor fame, nor even for money, but for posterity, for all time.

Primarily, though, I am inclined to think they wrote for themselves, because they could not help it, absolute necessity for expression being one of the laws of genius. A poet sings as does the bird, and a brain that is bursting with thought must give itself vent. Herein lies the difference. The magazinist writes to his public, the genius must form his public; the first must please his audience, and if he succeeds, he has his reward in applause and bouquets. But genius toils during long and apparently fruitless years; he cannot get before the footlights. He is unheard, unappreciated by the public, while too often misunderstood, taunted, and scorned by his private critic. To many people print is the criterion of excellence, and they would not estimate Shakespeare himself in manuscript.

No less than other men would our genius enjoy fame, success, and the ease of wealth, but not for these will he exchange his soul. Genius cannot popularize itself; it must wait for the thought of the times to catch up with it, for it is the very essence of genius that it is before and far away beyond its generation. The greater the genius, the longer the waiting. Remember Hawthorne, the hermit, secluding himself in a bleak New England chamber for seventeen years before his marvellous witchery began to win recognition; Carlyle at Craigan-Puttoch, and again at Cheyne Row tearing his hair over the “French Revolution,” and bitterly reviling in his heart the pigmy public which could “eat; drink, and be merry” on the edge of a no less terrible social abyss. Emerson never won riches, and grand old Walt Whitman has lived in poverty all these years. Shelley, the exile, was banished from Oxford, scorned by his own, robbed of his children, and yet to-day the Clarendon Press is bringing out his “Adonais” in an edition de luxe. Browning lived to realize fame and a sufficiency of success; but read his “Men and Women” to learn if he knew or not the depths of sorrowing disheartenment.

“Given the conditions, who would be a genius?” cries one, and the answer comes swift: “Surely, not he who asks the question and flaunts the doubt.”

(Jeanie Porter Rudd, “Writing to a Public,” The Writer, Vol. V, 1891, p. 117).

655: Genius Cannot Popularize Itself.

647: Differences in Point of View.

The notion of obligations comes before that of rights, which is subordinate and relative to the former. A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds, the effective exercise of a right springing not from the individual who possesses it, but from other men who consider themselves as being under a certain obligation towards him. Recognition of an obligation makes it effectual. An obligation which goes unrecognized by anybody loses none of the full force of its existence. A right which goes unrecognized by anybody is not worth very much.

It makes nonsense to say that men have, on the one hand, rights, and on the other hand, obligations. Such words only express differences in point of view. The actual relationship between the two is as between object and subject. A man, considered in isolation, only has duties, amongst which are certain duties towards himself. Other men, seen from his point of view, only have rights. He, in his turn, has rights, when seen from the point of view of other men, who recognize that they have obligations towards him. A man left alone in the universe would have no rights whatever, but he would have obligations.

(Simone Weil; quoted in Maria Popova, “The Needs of the Soul: Simone Weil on the Crucial Difference Between Our Rights and Our Obligations,” Brain Pickings, February 3, 2016).

647: Differences in Point of View.

645: They Were Not Satirists.

Satire is a matter of period. It flourishes in a stable society and presupposes homogeneous moral standards — the early Roman Empire and eighteenth-century Europe. It is aimed at inconsistency and hypocrisy. It exposes polite cruelty and folly by exaggerating them. It seeks to produce shame. All this has no place in the Century of the Common Man where vice no longer pays lip service to virtue. The artist’s only service to the disintegrated society of today is to create independent little systems of order of his own. I foresee in the dark age to come that the scribes may play the part of monks after the first barbarian victories. They were not satirists.

(Evelyn Waugh; quoted in Paul V. Mankowski, “Waugh on the Merits,” First Things, October 2017).

645: They Were Not Satirists.