Those that have very quick Thoughts, shall speak readier than write; because in speaking they are not tied to any style or number: besides, in speaking, Thoughts lie loose and careless; but in writing they are gathered up, and are like water in a Cup whose mouth is held downward; for every drop striving to be out first, stops the passage: or like the common people in an uproar, that run without order, and disperse without success; when slow and strong Thoughts come well-armed and in good order; discharge with courage, and go off with honour.
The reason why Study seems difficult at first, and easier and clearer afterward, is, that the Imagination hath not beaten out a path-way of Understanding in the Head; which when it hath, the Thoughts run even and right, without the pains of deep Study: for when the way is made, they need not search long to find out what they seek for: for the Brakes and Rubbish of Ignorance, that obstructed the Thoughts, are trodden into firm and hard ground in the way to Knowledge.
Most Modern Writers do but new-dress old Authors; thought they give them another-fashion’d Garment, the Person is the same. But some do disguise them so much, that a Vulgar Eye cannot perceive them, but mistake the Author through the alteration of the Habit.
An History and a Romancy is more delightful in general, than Fancy; for Women and Fools are taken with Tales; but none but Wits are taken one with another.
It is not enough for Translators to be learned in several Languages, but there must be a sympathy between the Genius of the Author and the Translator, which every Age doth not produce: for most commonly a great Genius is not matches in many Ages. Ovid’s Genius was matched by Sands, and Dabartos was matched by Sylvester; for, though his Work was endeavoured to be translated, yet it is not like it. It is true, that though the copy of a Picture is not so well as the Original; the good Copies draw so near the Life, that none but a curious and skillful Eye shall perceive the difference, So a good Translator shall write, so like the Author, that none but the most Learned, and the with study and great observation, shall find the defects.
Cavendish, Margaret. “Of the motion of thoughts in speaking and writing.” 1655. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 22 Oct 2008. 23 May 2013 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/cavendish/motion_of_thoughts/>.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies.
If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at Amazon.com.
"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier
I know not what it is makes me so prone to this posture of musing, which is between melancholy fits and those doting visions that use to rock men asleep whose souls or bodies are distempered with disease or passion.
It may be said that the books of which I have been speaking attain to the highest literary excellence by favour of simplicity and unconsciousness.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.