Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment.
... he was beginning to realize that he was the creature of a God who appreciated the discomfort of his worshippers.
He satisfied his conscience by the more comfortable method of expressing his repentance only to the Almighty.
Of course schools are made for the average. The holes are all round, and whatever shape the pegs are they must wedge in somehow. One hasn't time to bother anything but the average.
In schools the rather stupid boys who work always do better than the clever boy who's idle.
You know, there are two good things in life, the freedom of thought and the freedom of action. In France you get freedom of action: you can do what you like and nobody bothers, but you must think as anybody else. In Germany you must do what everybody does, but you may think as choose. They're both very good things. I personally prefer the freedom of thought. But in England you get neither: you're ground down by convention. You can't think as you like and you can't act as you like. That's because it's a democratic country. I expect America's worse.
But one mark of a writer's greatness is that different minds can find in him different opinions.
Perhaps his taciturnity hid a contempt for the human race which has abandoned the great dreams of his youth and now wallowed in sluggish ease; or perhaps these thirty years of revolution had thought him that men are unfit for liberty, and he thought that he had spent his life in the pursuit of that which was not worth the finding. Or maybe he was tired out and waited only with indifference for the release of death.
He was so young, he did not realize how much less is the sense of obligation in those who receive favours that in those who grant them.
... when feeling is the gauge you can snap your your fingers at logic, and when your logic is weak that is very agreeable.
... he felt that in putting into plain words what the other had expressed in paraphrase, he had been guilty of vulgarity.
'St. Augustin believed that the earth was flat and that the sun turned around it.'
'I don't know what that proves.'
'Why, it proves that you believe with your generation. Your saints lived in an age of faith, when it was practically impossible to disbelieve what to us is positively incredible.'
'Then how d'you know that we have the truth now?'
'I don't see why the things we believe absolutely now shouldn't be just as wrong as what they believed in the past.'
'Neither do I.'
'Then how can you believe in anything at all.'
'I don't know.'
'Men have always formed gods in their own image.'
'I don't see why one should believe in God at all.'
Faith had been forced upon him from the outside. It was a matter of environment and example. A new environment and a new example gave him the opportunity to find himself. [...] The religious exercises which for so many years had been upon him were part and parcel of religion to him.
Suddenly he realized that he had lost also that burden of responsibility which made every action of his life a matter of urgent consequence. He could breath more freely in a lighter air. He was responsible only to himself for the things he did. Freedom! He was his own master at last. From old habit, unconsciously he thanked God that he no longer believed in him.
It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded.
He was a man who saw nothing for himself but only through a literary atmosphere, and he was dangerous because he had deceived himself into sincerity. He honestly mistook his sensuality for romantic emotion, his vacillation for the artistic temperament, and his idleness for philosophic calm. His mind, vulgar at its effort at refinement, saw everything a little larger than life size, with the outlines blurred, in a golden mist of sentimentality. He lied and never knew that he lied, and when it was pointed out to him said that lies are beautiful. He was an idealist.
Like all week men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's opinion.
But art is a luxury. Men attach importance only to self-preservation and the propagation of their species. It is only when these instincts are satisfied that they consent to occupy themselves with the entertainment which is provided for them by writers, painters, and poets.
He had pondered for twenty years the problem whether he loved liquor because it made him talk or whether he loved conversation because it made him thirsty.
'By George, I believe I've got genius.'
He was in fact very drunk, but as he had not taken more than one glass of beer, it could have been due only to a more dangerous intoxicant than alcohol.
Art [...] is merely the refuge which the ingenious have invented, when they were supplied with food and women, to escape the tediousness of life.
The Almighty can hardly be such a fool as the churches make out. If you keep His laws I don't think He can care a packet of pins whether you believe in Him or not.
The illusion which man has that his will is free is so deeply rooted that
I am ready to accept it.
I refuse to make a hierarchy of human actions and ascribe worthiness to some and ill-repute to others. The terms vice and virtue have no signification for me. I do not confer praise or blame: I accept. I am the measure of all things. I am the centre of the world.
But are you under the impression that men ever do anything except for selfish reasons?
You will find as you grow older that the first thing needful to make the world a tolerable place to live in is to recognize the inevitable selfishness of humanity. You demand unselfishness from others, which is a preposterous claim that they should sacrifice their desires to yours. Why should they? When you are reconciled to the fact that each is for himself in the world you will ask less from your fellows. They will not disappoint you, and you will look upon them more charitably. Men seek but one thing in life - their pleasure.
You rear like a frightened colt, because I use a word to which your Christianity ascribes a deprecatory meaning. You have a hierarchy of values; pleasure is at the bottom of the ladder, and you speak with a little thrill of self-satisfaction, of duty, charity, and truthfulness. [...] It is pleasure that lurks in the practice of every one of your virtues. Man performs actions because they are good for him, and when they are good for other people as well they are thought virtuous: if he finds pleasure in giving alms he is charitable; if he finds pleasure in helping others he is benevolent; if he finds pleasure in working for society he is public-spirited; but it is for your private pleasure that you give twopence to a beggar as much as it is for my private pleasure that I drink another whiskey and soda. I, less of a humbug than you, neither applaud myself for my pleasure nor demand your admiration.
People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise.
Criticism has nothing to do with the artist. It judges objectively, but the objective doesn't concern the artist.
We paint from within outwards - if we force our vision on the world it calls us great painters; if we don't it ignores us; but we are the same. We don't attach any meaning to greatness or to smallness. What happens to our work afterwards is unimportant; we have got all we could out of it while we were doing it.
Oh, my dear fellow, if you want to be a gentleman you must give up being an artist. They've got nothing to do with one another. You hear of men painting pot-boilers to keep an aged mother - well, it shows they're excellent sons, but it's no excuse for bad work. They're only tradesmen. An artist would let his mother go to the workhouse.
There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one's means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for the people who despise money. They are hypocrites or fools. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without an adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off. The only thing to be careful about is that you do not pay more than a shilling for the shilling you earn. You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh. They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like a cancer. It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one's dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank, and independent. I pity with all my heart the artist, whether he writes or paints, who is entirely dependent for subsistence upon his art.
I see no talent in anything you have shown me. I see industry and intelligence. You will never be anything but mediocre.
It is cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late.
I daresay one profits more by the mistakes one makes off one's own bat than by doing the right thing on somebody's else advice.
Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner.
He found that it was easy to make a heroic gesture, but hard to abide by its results.
But age is a matter of knowledge rather than of years;
I shouldn't mind marrying, but I don't want to marry if I'm going to be no better off than what I am now. I don't see the use of it.
You know, I don't believe in churches and parsons and all that [...] but I believe in God, and I don't believe He minds much about what you do as long as you keep your end up and help a lame dog over a stile when you can. And I think people on the whole are very nice, and I'm sorry for those who aren't.
Life wouldn't be worth living if I worried over the future as well as the present. When things are at their worst I find something always happens.
...he did not think he had been more selfish than anyone else...
It's the simplest thing in the world to have an affair with a woman [...] but it's a devil of a nuisance to get out of it.
There is nothing so terrible as the pursuit of art by those who have no talent.
There's always one who loves and one who lets himself be loved.
One's always rather apt to exaggerate the passion one's inspired other people with.
"Oh, it's always the same," she sighed, "if you want men to behave well to you, you must be beastly to them; if you treat them decently they make you suffer for it."
It's not very pleasant being in love.
It doesn't matter what a man does if he's ready to take the consequences.
He had heard people speak contemptuously of money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it. He knew that the lack made a man petty, mean, grasping; it distorted his character and caused him to view the world from a vulgar angle; when you had to consider every penny, money became of grotesque importance: you needed a competency to rate it at its proper value.
"Thing I've always noticed, people don't commit suicide for love, as you'd expect, that's just a fancy of novelists; they commit suicide because they haven't got any money. I wonder why that is."
"I suppose money's more important than love," suggested Philip.