He had outgrown his library as one outgrows a waistcoat

Selections from Notebook B of Lichtenberg’s Waste Books (in the NYRB edition translated by Hollingdale):

Every man also has his moral backside which he refrains from showing unless he has to and keeps covered as long as possible with the trousers of decorum

He was so witty that any thing served him as an intermediate term for comparing any pair of other things with one another.

He had outgrown his library as one outgrows a waistcoat. Libraries can in general be too narrow or too wide for the soul.

People often become scholars for the same reason they become soldiers: simply because they are unfit for any other station. Their right hand has to earn them a livelihood; one might say they lie down like bears in winter and seek sustenance from their paws.

If I should ever produce an edition of his life, go straight to the index and look up the words bottle and conceit: they will contain the most important facts about him.

We begin reading early and we often read much too much, so that we receive and retain large amounts of material without putting it into employment and our memory becomes accustomed to keeping open house for taste and feeling; this being so, we often have need of a profound philosophy to restore to our feelings their original state of innocence, to find our way out of the rubble of things alien to us, to begin to feel for ourselves and to speak ourselves, and I might almost say to exist ourselves.

How did you enjoy yourself with these people? Answer: very much, almost as much as I do when alone.

To learn how to teach and test yourself brings much comfort and is not as dangerous as shaving yourself; everyone should learn it at a certain age for fear of one day becoming the victim of an ill-guided razor.

The description of wit is the best I’ve ever seen.

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