612: His Ladder.

No author need ever regret being superseded by the host of imitators who build on his foundations and mount by his ladder. And books which put forth no pretentious claims to be either exhaustive or absolutely original, do not therefore deserve the scorn which some lordly and beardless reviewer may choose to void upon them. They may be thrice blessed if they help to give currency to the coin of truth. All originality is relative. If it is going too far to say, with the thief in “Abou Mazar,”

“One poet is another’s plagiary,

And he a third’s, till they all end in Homer,”

yet there are but few authors who might not use the modest language of Charles Nodier: “Presque tout ce que j’ai à dire a été dit ailleurs, a été dit autrement, a été dit mieux.” Only one or two in a generation are really original; and those who are the medium of communicating to thousands the truths which would otherwise be beyond their reach, are rendering a substantial service to mankind, and a service which will receive its due reward of honest gratitude. Let them do their work as well as they can, and it will be sure to bear good fruit, whether they are censured or praised. Let them follow respecting it the advice which Schiller gave long ago: “Werfe es schweigend in die unendliche Zeit.”

(F.W. Farrar, “Literary Criticism,The Forum, Vol. IX, 1890, p. 291).

612: His Ladder.

607: Barren Zeal.

Man is a transitory being, and his designs must partake of the imperfections of their author. To confer duration is not always in our power. We must snatch the present moment, and employ it well, without too much solicitude for the future, and content ourselves with reflecting that our part is performed. He that waits for an opportunity to do much at once, may breathe out his life in idle wishes, and regret, in the last hour, his useless intentions, and barren zeal.

(Samuel Johnson, Select Essays, Vol. 2. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1889, p. 147).

607: Barren Zeal.

606: Action.

Men by their nature are impelled to action, and they require a moral guide for their feet. To wait, with our short lives, till reason has discovered the absolute moral law, would involve us in the dilemma of abstaining from action (which is an impossibility), or of acting without any rule of conduct. Reason bids us, then, seeing as we do “through a glass darkly,” to follow the immediate dictates of common sense, conscience, and revelation.

(William John Courthope, “Johnson and Carlyle,” The National Review, Vol. II, 1883–84, p. 321).

606: Action.

605: A Soundless World.

It is curious to remark that Dante’s Paradise — the farthest reach of the human imagination in picturing the unknown — is a soundless world. There are no harps or citherns or orchestras there. There is nothing but light, dancing, and philosophical discourses. Critics there have been who thought it grotesque; and unquestionably the spectacle of grave Doctors of the Church gyrating on one toe, or wheeling three times about Dante and his guide, or flocking together like cranes and writing out symbolical letters on the sky, might make a thoughtless reader smile. But philosophically speaking, Dante was quite right.

(Charles Leonard Moore, “Literature, Music and Morals,” The Dial, Vol. XXVII, 1899, p. 166).

605: A Soundless World.

604: An Illusion.

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. This is an illusion, and one should recognise it as such, but one ought also to stick to one’s own world-view, even at the price of seeming old-fashioned: for that world-view springs out of experiences that the younger generation has not had, and to abandon it is to kill one’s intellectual roots.

(George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4. London: Secker & Warburg, 1968, p. 51).

604: An Illusion.