“There are no crowds of men”

Spreading around us upon every side to-day like a huge and radiating geometrical figure are the endless branches of the great city. There are times when we are almost stricken crazy, as well we may be, by the multiplicity of those appalling perspectives, the frantic arithmetic of that unthinkable population. But this thought of ours is in truth nothing but a fancy. There are no chains of houses; there are no crowds of men. The colossal diagram of streets and houses is an illusion, the opium dream of a speculative builder. Each of these men is supremely solitary and supremely important to himself. Each of these houses stands in the centre of the world. There is no single house of all those millions which has not seemed to some one at some time the heart of all things and the end of travel.

— Twelve Types (1903).

Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Reparation

God is great: through the tangle of scorns
In ordered seasons of suns and snows;
Slowly the thousand crowns of thorns
Shall break and redden to crowns of rose.

God is great: with a myriad throats;
Doubt’s grey seas rise high and throng,
Yet all their noise is a note ‘mid notes
Struck in the chords of his own world-song.

God is great: but not most for these
For heavens in chaos and moons in blight
I see his glory, as one that sees
Measureless forces he reins aright.

At the roots of my heart lies brown and dry,
Bitten and fragrant, an old ‘too late’
The dark dumb heat of a buried cry,
And God shall answer it — God is great.

— (late 1890s).

Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm  Comments (1)  

“A sad supernaturalism”

This was one of the most peculiar of the problems of the Victorian mind. The idea of the supernatural was perhaps at as low an ebb as it had ever been—certainly much lower than it is now. But in spite of this, and in spite of a certain ethical cheeriness that was almost de rigueur—the strange fact remains that the only sort of supernaturalism the Victorians allowed to their imaginations was a sad supernaturalism. They might have ghost stories, but not saints’ stories. They could trifle with the curse or unpardoning prophecy of a witch, but not with the pardon of a priest. They seem to have held (I believe erroneously) that the supernatural was safest when it came from below. When we think (for example) of the uncountable riches of religious art, imagery, ritual and popular legend that has clustered round Christmas through all the Christian ages, it is a truly extraordinary thing to reflect that Dickens (wishing to have in The Christmas Carol a little happy supernaturalism by way of a change) actually had to make up a mythology for himself.

— The Victorian Age in Literature (1913).
Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Bad old times”

When a modern Englishman says that he thinks the good old times were bad old times, he simply means that he cannot crowd into three-score years and ten so many mistakes and crimes that Man has been able to crowd into much more than threescore centuries. Which is probably true.

The Illustrated London News, 4 October 1913.

Published in: on February 4, 2015 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment