579: Like One of the Great Painters of Old.

In his technical method […] Count Tolstoy is like one of the great painters of old. After forming the plan of his work, and gathering a great number of studies, he begins with a charcoal sketch, so to speak, and writes rapidly, not thinking of details. What he writes in this way he gives to Countess Sophia Andreevna to copy out, or to one of his daughters, or to one of his intimate friends, to whom this task may give pleasure. Lyof Nicolaievitch, Count Tolstoy, generally writes on quarto paper, of rather poor quality, in a big, rope-like handwriting, writing about twenty pages a day, amounting to some four or five thousand words. He has no special habits with regard to pens and paper. And when a firm in Moscow conceived the idea of giving to the world a “Tolstoyan pen,” it was discovered that on the subject of pens “Count Tolstoy had no opinion.” He works mostly in the morning, and considers this the best time of the day for work.

When the clean copy of his manuscript makes its appearance on the writing table, Count Tolstoy begins at once to work it all over again. But it still remains very much of a charcoal sketch. The manuscript is quickly dotted over with corrections, alterations, interlinear additions; at both sides, above and below, appear new thoughts and phrases, with inversions and transferences of sentences from one page to another. The whole is copied out again, and once more subjected to exactly the same process. A third time exactly the same thing happens. Some chapters Count Tolstoy has written more than ten times. At the same time, he pays almost no attention to details of wording, and even feels something like repugnance to everything closely clipped in art.

“All that often dries up the thought, and blunts the impression,” he says.

When he has once armed himself for writing, with reminiscences or observations, or with new views on the subject he is treating, Count Tolstoy works steadily and persistently at every chapter, only making short breaks for rest; and when he is in difficulties, taking refuge in a game of solitaire, until he sees his way clear. The intent search after the inner being of every hero he represents, forms at this stage Count Tolstoy’s chief task, and his favorite expression on this subject is: “Gold is found by persistent sifting and washing.”

(Charles Johnston, “How Count Tolstoy Writes,” The Arena, Vol. XXI, No. 3, 1899, pp. 269–270).

579: Like One of the Great Painters of Old.

573: Better than Anything Else.

Literature in general, when we attempt to define it, becomes as elusive as the highest of its forms, which is poetry. Literature reflects life, in all its phases, to use a trite comparison, as some of the old Gothic cathedrals reflect life — from the agonizing figure on the rood screen to the grinning gargoyles on the roof and the vile little demons — the seven deadly sins — carved on the backs of the remote stalls. It has its spires that spring up as high as the clouds, and its crawling things of the earth, symbolical of the vices of the people that produce it. Its form changes, not only with every great impulse of force, but with every slight change of emotion. It expresses, it illuminates, it interprets; it cannot exist without thought, but it is more than thought. It is not philosophy, but it is impregnated with the effects of philosophy. It is not logic or metaphysics, or ethics; but it cannot exist in perfection without a logical basis — and it partakes of metaphysics and ethics. It is neither scientia in the old sense — for pure and colorless truth cannot be literature — or science in the new; yet it exists through truth, and its phenomena are best explained by the methods of science. It is not history, yet it is the beginning of history. It is not the personal word alone, yet the personal word is necessary to its existence. As I said, it is not ethics, yet it expresses the morality of the nation whose life it interprets. It is minutely personal — personality is one of its essences, and yet it represents better than anything else the national life.

(Maurice Francis Egan, “The Definition of Literature,The Catholic University Bulletin, Vol. VIII, 1902, pp. 429–430).

573: Better than Anything Else.

566: O Melhor de Tudo.

                                               Effeitos mil revolve o pensamento,                                                                                                   E não sabe a que causa se reporte:                                                                                       Mas sabe que o que he mais que vida e morte                                     Não se alcança de humano entendimento.

Doctos varões darão razões subidas;
Mas são as exp’riencias mais provadas:
E por tanto he melhor ter muito visto.

Cousas ha hi que passão sem ser cridas:
E cousas cridas ha sem ser passadas.
Mas o melhor de tudo he crer em Christo.

(Luiz de Camões, Sonetos. Porto: Imprensa Portuguesa, 1880, p. 236).

566: O Melhor de Tudo.

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).

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

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.