The Hush of a Great Library

Gerald Stanley Lee, The Lost Art of Reading (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), pp. 93-94:

The question that concerns me is, What shall a man do, how shall he act, when he finds himself in the hush of a great library, — opens the door upon it, stands and waits in the midst of it, with his poor outstretched soul all by himself before it, — and feels the books pulling on him? I always feel as if it were a sort of infinite crossroads. The last thing I want to know in a library is exactly what I want there. I am tired of knowing what I want. I am always knowing what I want. I can know what I want almost anywhere. If there is a place left on God’s earth where a modern man can go and go regularly and not know what he wants awhile, in Heaven’s name why not let him? I am as fond as the next man, I think, of knowing what I am about, but when I find myself ushered into a great library I do not know what I am about any sooner than I can help. I shall know soon enough — God forgive me! When it is given to a man to stand in the Assembly Room of Nations, to feel the ages, all the ages, gathering around him, flowing past his life; to listen to the immortal stir of Thought, to the doings of The Dead, why should a man interrupt — interrupt a whole world — to know what he is about? I stand at the junction of all Time and Space. I am the three tenses. I read the newspaper of the universe.

The Duke of Aumale’s reading room at Chantilly

Seven Years

Philip Gilbert Hamerton, “Amateur Painters,” Thoughts About Art (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1882), pp. 356-357:

The argument that an amateur with leisure at his command has not time to study painting seriously may be met by the reply, that since many painters have painted well in their youth it does not need a lifetime to learn the manual practice of the art. It appears to cost about seven years’ labour, when the whole time is given, being equivalent to an outlay of about 14,000 hours. This is a great outlay of time; but suppose the case of a youth who inherits a fortune, and, having finished his university education, takes to studying art as an amateur. He may expect to paint well at the age of thirty, if he goes through the regular training, and at thirty a man is still young. This, however, supposes the most ambitious amateurship, that which aspires to paint pictures. There are various gradations of less ambitious but equally serious amateurship, which do not require so considerable an expenditure of time. Suppose the case of an amateur who confines himself to drawing, not attempting colour at all; he may learn to draw well in from 5,000 to 7,000 hours, say three hours a day for seven years. Here, again, he may be less ambitious. This estimate is based on the supposition that he draws the figure, and qualifies himself for severe figure-design. But he may draw sufficiently accurately for animals and landscapes with less labour, and for purposes of illustration not having artistic quality for an object with less labour still. One may do thoroughly useful and valuable scientific illustrations or topographic memoranda without having given the time necessary to reach the subtleties of art.

The first plate of the Charles Bargue Drawing Course

A Trail Like a Shooting Star

R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938), p. 7:

The obsolete meanings which every word with a history is bound to possess are the meanings it once had, and retains by force of habit. They form a trail behind the word like that of a shooting star, and divide themselves according to their distance from it into more and less obsolete. The very obsolete are not a danger to the present use of the word; they are dead and buried, and only the antiquary wishes to disinter them. But the less obsolete are a very grave danger. They cling to our minds like drowning men, and so jostle the present meaning that we can only distinguish it from them by the most careful analysis.

Nicholas Roerich, Star of the Hero (1936)

Musa Pedestris

Victor Hugo, “Letter XX: From Lorch to Bingen,” The Rhine, tr. D. M. Aird (New York: Worthington Co., 1886), pp. 165-166:

Nothing to me is more pleasing than traveling on foot. We are free and joyous. No breaking down of wheels, no contingencies attendant on carriages. We set out; stop when it suits us; breakfast at a farm or under a tree; walk on, and dream while walking — for traveling cradles reverie, reverie veils fatigue, and the beauty of the country hides the length of the road. We are not traveling — we wander. Then we stop under the shade of a tree, by the side of a little rivulet, whose rippling waters harmonize with the songs of the birds that load the branches over our heads. I saw with compassion a diligence pass before me, enveloped in dust, and containing tired, screwed-up and fatigued passengers. Strange that those poor creatures, who are often persons of mind, should willingly consent to be shut up in a place where the harmony of the country sounds only in noise, the sun appears to them in clouds, and the roads in whirlwinds of dust. They are not aware of the flowers that are found in thickets, of the pearls that are picked up amongst pebbles, of the Houris that the fertile imagination discovers in landscapes! — musa pedestris. Everything comes to the foot-passenger. Adventures are ever passing before his eyes.

The original, from Le Rhin, Vol. II (Paris: J. Hetzel & Cie., 1800), p. 3:

Rien n’est charmant, à mon sens, comme cette façon de voyager. – A pied ! – On s’appartient, on est libre, on est joyeux ; on est tout entier et sans partage aux incidents de la route, à la ferme où l’on déjeune, à l’arbre où l’on s’abrite, à l’église où l’on se recueille. On part, on s’arrête, on repart ; rien ne gêne, rien ne retient. On va et on rêve devant soi. La marche berce la rêverie ; la rêverie voile la fatigue. La beauté du paysage cache la longueur du chemin. On ne voyage pas, on erre. à chaque pas qu’on fait, il vous vient une idée. Il semble qu’on sente des essaims éclore et bourdonner dans son cerveau. Bien des fois, assis à l’ombre au bord d’une grande route, à côté d’une petite source vive d’où sortaient avec l’eau la joie, la vie et la fraîcheur, sous un orme plein d’oiseaux, près d’un champ plein de faneuses, reposé, serein, heureux, doucement occupé de mille songes, j’ai regardé avec compassion passer devant moi, comme un tourbillon où roule la foudre, la chaise de poste, cette chose étincelante et rapide qui contient je ne sais quels voyageurs lents, lourds, ennuyés et assoupis ; cet éclair qui emporte des tortues. -oh ! Comme ces pauvres gens, qui sont souvent des gens d’esprit et de cœur, après tout, se jetteraient vite à bas de leur prison, où l’harmonie du paysage se résout en bruit, le soleil en chaleur et la route en poussière, s’ils savaient toutes les fleurs que trouve dans les broussailles, toutes les perles que ramasse dans les cailloux, toutes les houris que découvre parmi les paysannes l’imagination ailée, opulente et joyeuse d’un homme à pied ! Musa pedestris. Et puis tout vient à l’homme qui marche. Il ne lui surgit pas seulement des idées, il lui échoit des aventures

Camille Corot, Un Chemin montant (c. 1830)

The Most Fortunate of Artists

Stanley Royle (1888–1961), “My Attitude to Painting,”

Of all artists, I think the landscape painter the most fortunate. He goes where he likes, paints what he likes, as he likes. He can move mountains, trees, rivers, rocks, oceans, to any position he requires them to be on his canvas, and can give rhythmic emphasis to his subject matter, if he so desires, to the point of what would be considered distortion in portraiture or figure. Nature, in her many moods, gives him a wealth of material to select from. He can select just those qualities he requires, and discard what he considers unnecessary, thus creating a new beauty.

Stanley Royle, The Homestead, Autumn (1926)