Essays by Alexander Smith
In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past.
The face of Christmas glows all the brighter for the cold. The heart warms as the frost increases. Estrangements which have embittered the whole year, melt in to-night's hospitable smile.
In our warm imaginative youth, death is far removed from us, and attains thereby a certain picturesqueness. The grim thought stands in the ideal world as a ruin stands in a blooming landscape.
If a man wishes to know his own secret opinion of himself, he had better take cognizance of his dreams.
This place suits my whim, and I like it better year after year. As with everything else, since I began to love it I find it gradually growing beautiful.
Youth is a lyrical poet, middle age a quiet essayist, fond of recounting experiences and of appending a moral to every incident.
A man’s power in literature, as in everything else, is best measured by his accomplishment, just as his stature is best measured by his coffin.
Chaucer is admitted on all hands to be a great poet, but, by the general public at least, he is not frequently read. He is like a cardinal virtue, a good deal talked about, a good deal praised, honoured by a vast amount of distant admiration, but with little practical acquaintance.
Vanity, which really helps to keep the race alive, has been treated harshly by the moralists and satirists. It does not quite deserve the hard names it has been called.
To be publicly put to death, for whatever reason, must ever be a serious matter. It is always bitter, but there are degrees in its bitterness.
I am afraid that the profession of letters interferes with the elemental feelings of life; and I am afraid, too, that in the majority of cases this interference is not justified by its results.
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.
We lose a great deal by foolish hauteur. No man is worth much who has not a touch of the vagabond in him.
He exists in a region to which rumour and conjecture have never penetrated. He was long neglected by his countrymen, and was brought to light as if by accident.
The essay-writer is a chartered libertine, and a law unto himself. A quick ear and eye, an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things, a brooding meditative spirit, are all that the essayist requires.