The Condition of the People who lye in i[Westminster Abbey], are apt to fill the Mind with a kind of Melancholy, or rather Thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable.
It is an inexpressible pleasure to know a little of the world, and be of no character or significancy in it.
The weather is like the government—always in the wrong.
It is the brightness, not the darkness, that we see when we look back. The sunshine casts no shadows on the past
There are plenty of lazy people and plenty of slow-coaches, but a genuine idler is a rarity.
Why shouldn’t we dress a little gayly? I am sure if we did we should be happier.
The moment [art] speaks out fully, lets us know all, ceases to represent a choice and a control of its own material, ceases to be, in short, an authority and a mystery, and prefers to set up for a mere Chinese copy of life.
It is as if tremendous London, her teeming thoughts troubling her, said 'Hush!' in the ear of all her own.
Fate must have her joke sometimes, as well as the least of us, and she suffers cheap energy to fill the newspapers for a lustrum, and genius to await identification at the morgue
"New lines of travel are like canals cut through the stagnant marsh of an old civilisation."
"If one had the time one could watch Them day after day, and never see Them do a single kind or good thing, or be moved by a single virtuous impulse."
"And there it is. There is no moral; there is no conclusion or application. The world is not quite infinite--but it is astonishingly full."
With one solitary exception, all warfare is built upon hypocrisy, acting upon ignorance.
We may lay a juster claim to the title of being the ancients, even than our forefathers themselves; for they inhabited the world when it was young, but we occupy it now that it is old.
It seems but reasonable that we should be capable of receiving Joy from what is no real Good to us, since we can receive Grief from what is no real Evil.
It is extremely easy to be as egotistical as Montaigne, and as conceited as Rousseau; but it is extremely difficult to be as entertaining as the one, or as eloquent as the other.
Scholars are never good poets, for they incorporate too much into other men, which makes them become less themselves.
It is a melancholy conversation that hath no sound.
Women and Fools are taken with Tales; but none but Wits are taken one with another.
If any take delight to read them [my books], I will not thank them for it: for if anything please them, they are to thank me for so much pleasure.
Of all the qualifications for conversation, humility, if not the most brilliant, is the safest, the most amiable, and the most feminine.
Young people never shew their folly and ignorance more conspicuously, than by this over-confidence in their own judgment, and this haughty disdain of the opinion of those who have known more days.
The love of dissipation is, I believe, allowed to be the reigning evil of the present day.
A great chapter of the history of the world is written in the chalk.
The sun that leaps from a mountain peak is a sun past the dew of his birth; he has walked some way towards the common fires of noon. But on the flat country the uprising is early and fresh, the arc is wide, the career is long.
If your natural walk is heavy, there is spirit in the tackle to give it life, and if it is buoyant it will be more buoyant under the buoyant burden—the yielding check—than ever before.
It is easy to replace man, and it will take no great time, where Nature has lapsed, to replace Nature. It is always to do, by the happily easy way of doing nothing.
Do we possess anything here more essentially ours (though we share it with our sister Germany) than our particle “un”? Poor are those living languages that have not our use of so rich a negative.
The woman in grey had a watchful confidence not only in a multitude of men but in a multitude of things. And it is very hard for any untrained human being to practise confidence in things in motion--things full of force, and, what is worse, of forces.
We sit in our quiet rooms, feeling safe, serene, even chilly, yet everywhere about us, peacefully confined in all our furniture and belongings, is a mass of inflammability.
The strange thing about all these ideas is that we find them suddenly in the mind and soul; we do not seem to invent them, though we cannot trace them.
The essayist is really a lesser kind of poet, working in simpler and humbler materials, more in the glow of life perhaps than in the glory of it.
The fact must be that very early in life before I can remember I formed a habit of going on living, and of expecting to go on, which became incorrigible.
We Americans are often congratulated, we often congratulate ourselves, on our emancipation from conventions, from forms, from traditions. But are we, I wonder, altogether to be congratulated?
I allow myself to be overwhelmed by the invading host of things, making fitful resistance, but without any real steadiness of purpose.
Facts—all facts—were precious to me, and I loved to feel them making piles and stacks and rows in my brain.
Now, humor is a pleasant thing, and a good thing; but perhaps it is being a little overdone, and overdone with a touch of priggery and a touch of stupidity.
For whereas the remoteness of memory is unalterable and eternal, the remoteness of our art-perceptions is apt to be momentary, and in part at least a matter of our own choice.
I have often thought that Lord Bacon might have known even more about revenge than he did, if he had observed it in children.
Perhaps, better than rebellion against the Obvious, would be an endeavor to reconquer the Obvious.
The seasons in people's lives seem to be losing some of their individual character, so that we never know just what we are going to get.
People on the same plane may clash, people on different ones cannot.
"Heaven send us such a house, or a house of some kind; but Heaven send us also the liberty to furnish it as we choose."
"The other day I noticed that my Muse, who had long been ailing, silent and morose, was showing signs of actual illness."
"Religion and the full meaning of things has nowhere more disappeared from the modern world than in the department of Guide Books."
"Pray, little pen, be worthy of the love I bear you, and consider how noble I shall make you some day"
There was one way of getting at the truth, and I determined to try it.
The beauty of this unlimited power of suggestion in writing is, that you may take up the driest and most commonplace of all possible subjects, and strike a light out of it to warm your intellect and your heart by.
A Problem—Will isolation solve it?
None but the initiated know what a great question the servant question is and how many perplexing sides it has.
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.
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Friend of Quotidiana Kim Dana Kupperman's Welcome Table Press is hosting a one-day symposium at Fordham University on Saturday, October 15th, 2011. In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form will feature talks and discussions by Phillip Lopate, Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, and more.
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