Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have never given the lie to my own soul. If I have felt the impression once, I feel it more strongly a second time; and I have no wish to revile or discard my best thoughts. There is a thorough keeping in what I write—not a line that betrays a principle or disguises a feeling. If my wealth is small, it all goes to enrich the same heap; and trifles in this way accumulate to a tolerable sum. — William Hazlitt, "The Letter-Bell," quoted by Arthur Krystal, Except When I Write, 2011, p. 45
Hazlitt's essay begins:
Complaints are frequently made of the vanity and shortness of human life, when, if we examine its smallest details, they present a world by themselves. The most trifling objects, retraced with the eye of memory, assume the vividness, the delicacy, and importance of insects seen through a magnifying class. There is no end of the brillancy or the variety. The habitual feeling of the love of life may be compared to one entire and perfect chrysolite, which, if analysed, breakes into a thousand shining fragments. Ask the sum-total of the value of human life, and we are puzzled with the length of the account, and the multiplicity of the items in it: take any one of them apart, and it is wonderful what matter for reflection will be found in it!
and ends:
The picturesque and the dramatic do not keep pace with the useful and the mechanical. The telegraphs that lately communicated the intelligence of the new revolution to all France within a few hours, are a wonderful contrivance; but they are less striking and appalling than the beacon-fires (mentioned by Æschylus), which, lighted from hill-top to hill-top, announced the taking of Troy, and the return of Agamemnon.

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