“It is immortal”

When a thing of the intellect is settled it is not dead: rather it is immortal.

— All Things Considered (1908).

Published in: on March 28, 2018 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Cogency and concreteness”

The question of whether an utterance can be brought under the law or not should have nothing to do with the violence of the language. It should be concerned only with the cogency and concreteness of the fact. A man should certainly be allowed to call the colour of a lady’s dress devilish. It is a matter of taste. A man should certainly be permitted to call a historian’s theory (let us say) of the economic changes in the sixteenth century a filthy and disgusting theory. It is a matter of opinion. We ought to be able to call a man a beast for being a Bowdleriser. We ought to be free to call a man a devil for being a Theosophist. For it is perfectly plain in such cases that we are not accusing the man of being anything other than he professes to be: we are only expressing our own personal and irresponsible dislike of what he does profess to be. We are not saying anything that could shake his credit among his friends; we are only indicating (as it were, faintly) that he is not likely to be one of ours.

— The Illustrated London News, 3 May 1913.

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Transfused with the Copernican idea”

It is a very remarkable thing that none of us are really Copernicans in our actual outlook upon things. We are convinced intellectually that we inhabit a small provincial planet, but we do not feel in the least suburban. Men of science have quarrelled with the Bible because it is not based upon the true astronomical system, but it is certainly open to the orthodox to say that if it had been it would never have convinced anybody.

If a single poem or a single story were really transfused with the Copernican idea, the thing would be a nightmare. Can we think of a solemn scene of mountain stillness in which some prophet is standing in a trance, and then realize that the whole scene is whizzing round like a zoetrope at the rate of nineteen miles a second? Could we tolerate the notion of a mighty King delivering a sublime fiat and then remember that for all practical purposes he is hanging head downwards in space? A strange fable might be written of a man who was blessed or cursed with the Copernican eye, and saw all men on the earth like tintacks clustering round a magnet. It would be singular to imagine how very different the speech of an aggressive egoist, announcing the independence and divinity of man, would sound if he were seen hanging on to the planet by his boot soles.

— The Defendant (1901).

Published in: on March 14, 2018 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Supposes them scattered everywhere”

A man treats his own faults as original sin and supposes them scattered everywhere with the seed of Adam. He supposes that men have then added their own foreign vices to the solid and simple foundation of his own private vices. It would astound him to realise that they have actually, by their strange erratic path, avoided his vices as well as his virtues. His own faults are things with which he is so much at home that he at once forgets and assumes them abroad. He is so faintly conscious of them in himself that he is not even conscious of the absence of them in other people.

What I Saw In America (1921).

Published in: on March 7, 2018 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment