Nous ne sommes jamais chez nous, nous sommes tousjours au delà

From Montaigne’s Nos affections s’emportent au delà de nous – Our emotions are carried beyond us.

We are never ‘at home’: we are always outside ourselves. Fear, desire, hope, impel us towards the future; they rob us of feelings and concern for what now is, in order to spend time over what will be – even when we ourselves shall be no more. [C] ‘Calamitosus est animus futuri anxius’ [Wretched is a mind anxious about the future].

Nous ne sommes jamais chez nous, nous sommes tousjours au delà.  La crainte, le desir, l’esperance, nous eslancent vers l’advenir: et nous desrobent le sentiment et la consideration de ce qui est, pour nous amuser à ce qui sera, voire quand nous ne serons plus.  Calamitosus est animus futuri anxius

The latin is from Seneca letter 98.

The corrective of all highly developed individuality

From Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy – the opening to his chapter on wit and satire in his section on the development of the individual in the Renaissance:

The corrective, not only of this modern desire for fame, but of all highly developed individuality, is found in ridicule, especially when expressed in the victorious form of wit. We read in the Middle Ages how hostile armies, princes, and nobles, provoked one another with symbolical insult, and how the defeated party was loaded with symbolical outrage. Here and there, too, under the influence of classical literature, wit began to be used as a weapon in theological disputes, and the poetry of Provence produced a whole class of satirical compositions. Even the Minnesänger, as their political poems show, could adopt this tone when necessary. But wit could not be an independent element in life till its appropriate victim, the developed individual with personal pretentions, had appeared. Its weapons were then by no means limited to the tongue and the pen, but included tricks and practical jokes—the so-called ‘burle’ and ‘beffe’—which form a chief subject of many collections of novels.

This remedies the defect of our too great nearness to ourselves

Some thoughts on reading from History in Emerson’s Essays, First Series

This human mind wrote history, and this must read it…. We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner; must fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall learn nothing rightly. What befell Asdrubal or Caesar Borgia is as much an illustration of the mind’s powers and depravations as what has befallen us. Each new law and political movement has meaning for you. Stand before each of its tablets and say, ‘Under this mask did my Proteus nature hide itself.’ This remedies the defect of our too great nearness to ourselves. This throws our actions into perspective; and as crabs, goats, scorpions, the balance and the waterpot lose their meanness when hung as signs in the zodiac, so I can see my own vices without heat in the distant persons of Solomon, Alcibiades, and Catiline.
The student is to read history actively and not passively; to esteem his own life the text, and books the commentary. Thus compelled, the Muse of history will utter oracles, as never to those who do not respect themselves. I have no expectation that any man will read history aright who thinks that what was done in a remote age, by men whose names have resounded far, has any deeper sense than what he is doing to-day.

The advancing man discovers how deep a property he has in literature,—in all fable as well as in all history. He finds that the poet was no odd fellow who described strange and impossible situations, but that universal man wrote by his pen a confession true for one and true for all. His own secret biography he finds in lines wonderfully intelligible to him, dotted down before he was born. One after another he comes up in his private adventures with every fable of Aesop, of Homer, of Hafiz, of Ariosto, of Chaucer, of Scott, and verifies them with his own head and hands.

Nothing in Comparison to Parmenon’s Pig

Erasmus’ Adagia 10

 Nothing in Comparison to Parmenon’s Pig

Said about imitation which in great degree falls short of what it imitates.  Plutarch in his Symposiacs, in the second problem of the fifth decade, explains how this adage came about:  There was a certain Parmenon, a man of that sort who even in our time imitate and recreate animal sounds and human voices so skillfully that – though only to listeners, not to those watching – the voices seem real and not imitations.  There is no lack of people whom this skill delights to the greatest degree.  Accordingly, Parmenon is thought to have been most agreeable and famous among the common people because of this skill.  When others tried to imitate him everyone would immediately say, “Εὖ μέν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲν πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν” or “Good certainly, but nothing compared to Parmenon’s pig.”

[But then] someone came forward carrying a genuine pig under his arms.  When the people heard the pig’s voice they believed it an imitation and, as they always did, they at once shouted, “Τί οὖν αὕτη πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος – Well, what is that compared to Parmenon’s?”  When the genuine pig was brought out and shown about openly, it refuted their judgment, inasmuch as it was formed not in accord with the true situation but through their imagination.  [Plutarch] likewise mentions Parmenon and his counterfeit pig in his commentary On Listening to the Poets.

Not inopportune is the use of this adage whenever someone, deceived in his opinion about a thing, judges it incorrectly.  Like if someone admires an unrefined and new-fashioned epigram persuaded that is is ancient.   Or again if someone condemns as modern something ancient and refined.  So strong is this type of imagination that it burdens even the most learned men in their judgment.


Οὐδὲν πρὸς τήν Παρμένοντος ὗν, id est Nihil ad Parmenonis suem. De aemula-
tione dictum, quae longo interuallo abesset ab eo quod imitaretur. Plutarchus
in Symposiacis, quintae decadis secundo problemate, quo pacto natum sit
adagium narrat ad hanc ferme sententiam: Parmeno quispiam fuit ex homi-
num eorum genere, qui nostris etiam temporibus varias animantium et
hominum voces ita scite imitantur ac repraesentant, vt audientibus tantum,
non etiam videntibus verae, non imitatae voces videantur. Neque desunt quos
hoc artificium maiorem in modum delectet. Parmenon igitur hac arte vulgo vt
iucundissimus ita etiam celeberrimus fuisse perhibetur; quem cum reliqui
conarentur aemulari ac protinus ab omnibus diceretur illud: Εὖ μέν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲν
πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος ὗν, hoc est Recte quidem, verum nihil ad Parmenonis suem,
quidam prodiit veram suculam sub alis occultatam gestans. Huius vocem cum
populus imitaticiam esse crederet statimque, sicut solent, reclamarent: Τί οὖν
αὕτη πρὸς τὴν Παρμένοντος; id est Quid haec ad Parmenonis suem? vera sue
deprompta ac propalam ostensa refellit illorum iudicium, vtpote non ex vero
sed ex imaginatione profectum. Meminit idem Parmenonis ac suis
adumbratae in commentariis De audiendis poetis. Nec intempestiuiter
vtemur hoc adagio, quoties aliquis opinione deceptus de re perperam iudicat.
Veluti si quis epigramma parum eruditum ac neotericum supra modum
admiraretur persuasus antiquum esse. Rursum, si quod antiquum esset et
eruditum, ceu nuperum damnaret. Tantum enim valet haec imaginatio, vt
eruditissimis etiam viris in iudicando imponat.

I continue to find Erasmus’ Latin very brusque next to classical.

We had a great love, a great bond, but both of us planned to murder each other

I was watching Aguirre, The Wrath of God earlier and remembered stories of the relationship between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski.  I need to watch Herzog’s later documentary on the friendship – My Best Fiend – but for now this old article is amusing enough:

Kinski was saved by his dog from being burned to death in bed. It attacked Herzog as he crept up to set fire to the actor’s house. Kinski made several attempts to return the compliment.

Their love-hate feud is the stuff of legend, but only now are the full details coming to light. Herzog lays the friendship bare in a documentary film, My Good Fiend.

‘We had a great love, a great bond, but both of us planned to murder each other,’ he said after the premiere at the Cannes film festival. ‘Klaus was one of the greatest actors of the century, but he was also a monster and a great pestilence. Every single day I had to think of new ways of domesticating the beast.’

Herzog, who made five films with him often in extreme jungle locations said Kinski would scream abuse at him and tell him he would trample him into the mud.

Herzog refused to say how else he planned to kill Kinski. But, he did pull a gun on the actor on the set of Aguirre, Wrath Of God, and threatened to shoot him and then himself after Kinski tried to walk out.

Utopians are heedless of methods

Aaron Rosenblum from Juan Rodolfo Wilcock’s The Temple of the Iconoclasts.  I discovered Wilcock through an interview with Roberto Bolano where he traces the lineage of his own Nazi Literature in the Americas from Marcel Schwob’s Vies imaginaires to Alfonso Reyes’ Real and Imagined Portraits (and what is the Spanish title?, this is very hard to find) to Borges’ A Universal History of Infamy.  

Utopians are heedless of methods. To render the human species happy, they are prepared to subject it to murder, torture, lethal injection, incineration, deportation, sterilization, quartering, lobotomy, electrocution, military invasion, bombing, etc. Everything depends on the project. Somehow it is encouraging to think that even in the absence of a project, men are and always will be prepared to murder, torture, sterilize, quarter, bomb, etc.

Aaron Rosenblum, born in Danzig, raised in Birmingham, also resolved to bring happiness to humanity. The injuries he caused were not immediate. He published a book on the topic, but the book long lay neglected, so he garnered few adherents. If he had enjoyed a following, in all likelihood Europe would now be without a single potato, street light, ballpoint pen, piano, or condom.

Aaron Rosenblum’s idea was extremely simple. He wasn’t the first to think of it, but he was the first to pursue it to its utmost consequences. Only on paper, however, since humanity does not always desire to do what it must to be happy. Or it prefers to choose its own methods, which, as with the best global projects, also entail murder, torture, imprisonment, exile, germ warfare, drug therapies, etc. Chronologically, Rosenblum’s utopia was unfortunate. The book destined to bring him fame, Back to Happiness; or, Joyride to Hell, appeared in 1940, precisely when the intellectual world was busily defending itself from another, equally utopian project of social reform — total reform.

Rosenblum first asked himself: Which was the happiest period of world history? Believing himself to be English, and as such the trustee of a well-defined literary tradition, he decided that the happiest historical period was the magnificently exciting reign of Elizabeth I, under the sage guidance of Lord Burghley. Or at least this was the moment when Shakespeare emerged, England discovered America, and the Catholic Church was forever defeated and forced to seek refuge in the remote Mediterranean. Rosenblum had himself been a High Church Anglican for many years.

Hence, the project of Back to Happiness was this: to return the world to 1580. To abolish coal, machines, engines, the electric light, corn, petroleum, film, asphalt streets, newspapers, the United States, airplanes, the vote, gasoline, parrots, motorcycles, the Rights of Man, tomatoes, steamships, the iron and steel industries, the pharmaceutical industry, the Eiffel Tower, Newton and gravitation, Milton, Dickens, Mickey Mouse, turkeys, surgery, railroads, aluminum, museums, anilines, guano, celluloid, Belgium, dynamite, the weekend, the seventeenth century, the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, the twentieth century, mandatory education, iron bridges, the bus, light artillery, disinfectants, coffee. Tobacco could remain, seeing that Sir Walter Raleigh smoked.

By the same token, it was necessary to reestablish: debtors’ prison; the gallows for thieves; slavery for blacks; the stake for witches; ten years of compulsory military service; the custom of abandoning babies by the road at birth; torches and candles; the practice of dining in a hat with a knife; the use of the rapier, cutlass, and poniard; hunting with bows; brigandage in the woods; persecution of the Jews; the study of Latin; the prohibition against women appearing on the stage; buccaneers attacking Spanish galleons; the use of the horse for transport and the ox for motor power; bearbaiting; primogeniture; the Maltese Knights at Malta; scholastic logic; the plague, smallpox, and typhus as forms of population control; respect for nobility; mud puddles in central urban streets; wooden buildings; bloodletting; swans breeding on the Thames and hawks in castles; alchemy as a pastime; astrology as a science; the institution of vassalage; trial by ordeal; the lute indoors, the trumpet in the open air; tournaments, damascened armor, coats of arms; the chamber pot — in a word, the past.

Now, it was obvious, even to Rosenblum’s eyes, that the planning and realization of such a utopia in 1940 would require time and patience that exceeded the enthusiastic collaboration of the most influential segment of public opinion. Adolf Hitler, it is true, seemed disposed to facilitate the most compelling aspects of the project, especially those involving eliminations. But like a good Christian Aaron Rosenblum could not but notice that the German head of state was letting himself get carried away by tasks that were ultimately secondary, like the suppression of the Jews and the military domination of Europe, instead of seriously applying himself to staving off the Turks, for example, or spreading syphilis, or illuminating missals.

Furthermore, however much Hitler lent the English a helping hand, he seemed secretly to nurture a certain hostility toward them. Rosenblum realized that he would have to do everything by himself — mobilize public opinion, and solicit signatures and support from scientists, sociologists, ecologists, writers, artists, and, in general, lovers of the past. Unfortunately, three months after the publication of the book, the author was recruited by the Home Guard to watch over a warehouse of absolutely no importance, in the most deserted area on the Yorkshire coast. He didn’t even have a telephone at his disposal. His utopia ran the risk of foundering.

It was he who foundered, however, and in a most unusual manner. As he wandered down the beach, gathering cockles and other sixteenth-century items for lunch, he was killed in an air raid, apparently an exercise, and blown to pieces in a pit. His remains were immediately swallowed by the sea.

Mention has already been made of the utopians’ lethal vocation. The bomb that destroyed Rosenblum also bespoke a utopia, one not very different from his, even if it appeared more violent. Essentially, his project was based on the progressive rarefaction of the present. Starting not with Birmingham, which was too dirty and would have required at least a century of cleaning, but with a small provincial town like Penzance, it was simply a question of delimiting a zone — perhaps acquiring it with funds from the yet-to-be-founded Sixteenth-Century Society — and excluding, with the most fastidious resolve, each and every thing, custom, style, musical composition, disease, and word dating back to the incriminated centuries, that is, the seventeenth, the eighteenth, the nineteenth, and the twentieth. A fairly complete list of excluded objects, concepts, events, and phenomena fills four chapters in Rosenblum’s book.

At the same time, the sponsoring institution, namely the Sixteenth-Century Society, would provide for the reintroduction of the aforementioned items (brigands, candles, swords, codpieces, beasts of burden, and so forth, through another four chapters of the book). This would be sufficient to convert the nascent colony into a paradise, or something very similar to a paradise. From London people would hasten in throngs to take the plunge into the 1500s — to wear doublets and ruffs, to crack nuts at the Globe Theatre, to empty their chamber pots into the open sewers. The resulting filth would immediately initiate the process of natural selection necessary to reduce the population to 1580 levels.

With the contributions of visitors and new members, the Sixteenth-Century Society would find itself in a position to enlarge its field of action, gradually expanding even as far as London. Sweeping four centuries of houses and iron manufactures from the capital was a problem that required a separate solution, probably the announcement of a competition for projects open to all young lovers of the past. The other utopian, the One Across the Channel, seemed already to have something like this in mind. Unsure, Rosenblum opted for encircling: perhaps a mere cincture of the sixteenth century around London would suffice to precipitate a total collapse.

The project, as imagined, proceeded rapidly to cover all of England, and from England, Europe. In reality, the two utopians were heading for the same goal by different paths: to ensure the happiness of humankind. Hitler’s utopia, meanwhile, fell into that extreme discredit with which everyone is familiar. Rosenblum’s, in contrast, resurfaces periodically in different guises: some favor the Middle Ages, others the Roman Empire, still others the State of Nature, and Greenblatt even favors the return of the Ape. If the estimated population of the chosen period were subtracted from current figures for the world, one would find that billions of people, or hominins, were condemned to death, in accordance with the project. These proposals flourish; Rosenblum’s spirit continues to wander the globe.

Timanthes and Iphigenia

From Montaigne 1.2 De la Tristesse (On Sadness):

…. the account goes on to tell us that Cambyses asked [Psammenitus] why he had remained unmoved by the fate of his son and daughter yet showed such emotion at the death of his friend. ‘Only the last of these misfortunes can be expressed by tears’, he replied; ‘the first two are way beyond any means of expression.’

That may explain the solution adopted by a painter in antiquity. He had to portray the grief shown on the faces of the people who were present when Iphigenia was sacrificed, giving each of them the degree of sorrow appropriate to his feelings of involvement in the death of that fair and innocent young woman. By the time he came to portray the father of Iphigenia he had exhausted all the resources of his art, so he painted him with his face veiled over, as though no countenance could display a grief so intense.

… elle adjouste que Cambises s’enquerant à Psammenitus, pourquoy ne s’estant esmeu au malheur de son fils et de sa fille, il portoit si impatiemment celuy d’un de ses amis: C’est, respondit-il, que ce seul dernier desplaisir se peut signifier par larmes, les deux premiers surpassans de bien loin tout moyen de se pouvoir exprimer. A l’aventure reviendroit à ce propos l’invention de cet ancien peintre, lequel, ayant à representer au sacrifice de Iphigenia le dueil des assistans, selon les degrez de l’interest que chacun apportoit à la mort de cette belle fille innocente, ayant espuisé les derniers efforts de son art, quand se vint au pere de la fille, il le peignit le visage couvert, comme si nulle contenance ne pouvoit representer ce degré de dueil.

The painter is Timanthes (4th century B.C) and the painting described is mentioned several times in Roman sources.

Pliny the Elder (35.74) says:

To return to Timanthes—he had a very high degree of genius. Orators have sung the praises of his Iphigenia, who stands at the altar awaiting her doom; the artist has shown all present full of sorrow, and especially her uncle, and has exhausted all the indications of grief, yet has veiled the countenance of her father himself. whom he was unable adequately to portray. There are also other examples of his genius, for instance a quite small panel of a Sleeping Cyclops, whose gigantic stature he aimed at representing even on that scale by painting at his side some Satyrs measuring the size of his thumb with a wand. Indeed Timanthes is the only artist in whose works more is always implied than is depicted, and whose execution, though consummate, is always surpassed by his genius.

Nam Timanthis vel plurimum adfuit ingenii. eius enim est Iphigenia oratorum laudibus celebrata, qua stante ad aras peritura cum maestos pinxisset omnes praecipueque patruum et tristitiae omnem imaginem consumpsisset, patris ipsius voltum velavit, quem digne non poterat ostendere. sunt et alia ingenii eius exempla, veluti Cyclops dormiens in parvola tabella, cuius et sic magnitudinem exprimere cupiens pinxit iuxta Satyros thyrso pollicem eius metientes. atque in unius huius operibus intelligitur plus semper quam pingitur et, cum sit ars summa, ingenium tamen ultra artem est.

And Cicero (Orator 22):

the poet avoids impropriety as the greatest fault which he can commit; he errs also if he puts the speech of a good man in the mouth of a villain, or that of a wise man in the mouth of a fool; so also the painter in portraying the sacrifice of Iphigenia, after representing Calchas as sad, Ulysses as still more so, Menelaus as in grief, felt that Agamemnon’s head must be veiled

quod si poeta fugit ut maximum vitium qui peccat etiam, cum probam orationem affingit improbo stultove sapientis; si denique pictor ille vidit, cum immolanda Iphigenia tristis Calchas esset, tristior Ulixes, maereret Menelaus, obvolvendum caput Agamemnonis esse, quoniam summum illum luctum penicillo non posset imitari;

The below fresco from Pompeii is sometimes thought to be a Roman copy of Timanthes’ work – though it would seem necessary to take copy in a somewhat loose sense.  Iphigenia is not standing at an altar as Pliny states and, Agamemnon excepted, I can’t match any of the figures with the emotions he or Cicero describe as so manifestly present.


Some pirate novels

Rereading Marcel Schwob’s La Cité Dormante the other day put in mind a host of pirate stories and novels I’d loved as a kid, many of which my parents or grandparents read to me.  Here’s what I can recall:

Treasure Island (Stevenson)

The Master of Ballantrae (Stevenson)

The Life, Adventures, and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton (Defoe)

A General History of the Pyrates (Defoe)

The Pirate (Walter Scott) – My grandfather read me this one when we visited most weekends but it was so long and I’d often fall asleep so soon into it that I have only the wispiest sense of the plot.

The Red Rover (Fennimore Cooper)

The Coral Island (Ballantyne)

Swallows and Amazons (Ransome)

The Book of Pirates (Howard Pyle)

The Ghost Pirates (William Hope Hodgson)

Tales of Pirates and Blue Waters (Conan Doyle)

The Sea Hawk (Sabatini)

Captain Blood (Sabatini)

The Black Swan (Sabatini)

(And for all the Sabatini books the movies are even more recommended)

A High Wind in Jamaica (Richard Hughes)

And the final entries, by Pierre Mac Orlan, are confusing.  Of the three I remember (which his wiki page tells me must have been À bord de L’Étoile Matutine, Les Clients du Bon Chien jaune, and L’Ancre de miséricorde) only the first has been translated (as On Board the Morning Star) so someone had to have read the other two to me.  I’ve bought a copy of Les Clients du Bon Chien jaune because I remember the terrifying at the time image of pirates dressed as skeletons and hunched in the rigging as they approach their prey with an eerie flute playing in accompaniment.

The Gardens of Tantalus

A delightful new phrase for me from Erasmus Adagia 4 – Adonidis Horti (the Gardens of Adonis).  The phrase receives its own full slot at Adagia 1046 but I only have volume 1 (1-1000) with me at the moment so the tension will be left to mount.

 With a similar metaphor Isaeus, according to Philostratus, labels the passions of youth the Ταντάλου κήπους (Gardens of Tantalus) because they are like shadows and dreams and do not satisfy a man’s spirit but rather goad it on the more.  Likewise, Pollux called the style of Athenodorus the Sophist the gardens of Tantalus because it is it is immature and insubstantial, presenting itself as though it contained something when it has nothing.

Non dissimili figura Isaeus apud Philostratum iuueniles voluptates appellat Ταντάλου κήπους, quod vmbris ac somniis persimiles sint nec expleant hominis animum sed iritent potius. Similiter Pollux sophistae Athenodori dictionem appellabat Tantali hortos, quod iuuenilis esset ac leuis, speciem prae se ferens, quasi esset aliquid, quum nihil esset.

The source in Philostratus (Lives of the Sophists 1.20, page 69 in the Loeb) for Isaeus:

Isaeus, the Assyrian sophist, had devoted the period of his early youth to pleasure, for he was the slave of eating and drinking, dressed himself in elegant stuffs, was often in love, and openly joined in drunken revels. But when he attained to manhood he so transformed himself as to be thought to have become another person, for he discarded both from his countenance and his mind the frivolity that had seemed to come to the surface in him; no longer did he, even in the theatre, hearken to the sounds of the lyre and the flute; he put off his transparent garments and his many-coloured cloaks, reduced his table, and left off his amours as though he had lost the eyes he had before. For instance, when Ardys the rhetorician asked him whether he considered some woman or other handsome, Isaeus replied with much discretion: “I have ceased to suffer from eye trouble.”[ὁ Ἰσαῖος “πέπαυμαι” εἶπεν “ὀφθαλμιῶν.”]  And when someone asked him what sort of bird and what sort of fish were the best eating: “I have ceased,” replied Isaeus, “to take these matters seriously, for I now know that I used to feed on the gardens of Tantalus.” [“πέπαυμαι” ἔφη ὁ Ἰσαῖος “ταῦτα σπουδάζων, ξυνῆκα γὰρ τοὺς Ταντάλου κήπους τρυγῶν,”] Thus he indicated to his questioner that all pleasures are a shadow and a dream.

And for Athenodorus (2.14, page 243 in the Loeb)

Athenodorus the sophist was, by virtue of his ancestors, the most illustrious of the citizens of Aenus, and by virtue of his teachers and his education the most notable of all the educated Greeks in that city. For he was educated by Aristocles while still a mere boy, and by Chrestus when his intelligence began to mature; and from these two he derived his well-tempered dialect, for he both Atticized and employed an ornate style of eloquence. He taught at Athens at the time when Pollux also was teaching there, and in his discourses he used to ridicule him as puerile and would quote “The gardens of Tantalus,” by which I think he meant to compare his light and superficial style of eloquence with some visionary image which both is and is not.

Un subject merveilleusement vain, divers, et ondoyant

From Montaigne’s Essai 1.1 Par Divers Moyens On Arrive à Pareille Fin (By different means one arrives at the same end).

Certes, c’est un subject merveilleusement vain, divers, et ondoyant, que l’homme. Il est malaisé d’y fonder jugement constant et uniforme

Certainly he is a subject marvellously vain, diverse, and undulating – man.  It is not easy to found a steady and unchanging judgment on him.

There’s nothing remarkable in the sentiment but the word choice is so beautifully Montaigne and so good an instance of one of Proust’s insights into style:

Il en est ainsi pour tous les grands écrivains, la beauté de leurs phrases est imprévisible, comme est celle d’une femme qu’on ne connaît pas encore; elle est création puisqu’elle s’applique à un objet extérieur auquel ils pensent—et non à soi—et qu’ils n’ont pas encore exprimé. Un auteur de mémoires d’aujourd’hui, voulant sans trop en avoir l’air, faire du Saint-Simon, pourra à la rigueur écrire la première ligne du portrait de Villars: «C’était un assez grand homme brun… avec une physionomie vive, ouverte, sortante», mais quel déterminisme pourra lui faire trouver la seconde ligne qui commence par: «et véritablement un peu folle». La vraie variété est dans cette plénitude d’éléments réels et inattendus, dans le rameau chargé de fleurs bleues qui s’élance, contre toute attente, de la haie printanière qui semblait déjà comble, tandis que l’imitation purement formelle de la variété (et on pourrait raisonner de même pour toutes les autres qualités du style) n’est que vide et uniformité, c’est-à-dire ce qui est le plus opposé à la variété, et ne peut chez les imitateurs en donner l’illusion et en rappeler le souvenir que pour celui qui ne l’a pas comprise chez les maîtres.

So it is with all great writers: the beauty of their sentences is as unforeseeable as is that of a woman whom we have never seen; it is creative, because it is applied to an external object which they have thought of—as opposed to thinking about themselves—and to which they have not yet given expression. An author of memoirs of our time, wishing to write without too obviously seeming to be writing like Saint-Simon, might at a pinch give us the first line of his portrait of Villars: “He was a rather tall man, dark . . . with an alert, open, expressive physiognomy,” but what law of determinism could bring him to the discovery of Saint-Simon’s next line, which begins with “and, to tell the truth, a trifle mad”? The true variety is in this abundance of real and unexpected elements, in the branch loaded with blue flowers which shoots up, against all reason, from the spring hedgerow that seemed already overcharged with blossoms, whereas the purely formal imitation of variety (and one might advance the same argument for all the other qualities of style) is but a barren uniformity, that is to say the very antithesis of variety, and cannot, in the work of imitators, give the illusion or recall the memory of it save to a reader who has not acquired the sense of it from the masters themselves.