English Novelist, Playwright, Critic and Essayist
Arnold Bennett, fully Enoch Thomas Arnold Bennett
English Novelist, Playwright, Critic and Essayist
Taking Berkeley simply as an instance, I will utilise him a little further. I ought to have read Berkeley, you say; just as I ought to have read Spenser, Ben Jonson, George Eliot, Victor Hugo. Not at all. There is no ?ought? about it. If the mass of obtainable first-class literature were, as it was perhaps a century ago, not too large to be assimilated by a man of ordinary limited leisure _in_ his leisure and during the first half of his life, then possibly there might be an ?ought? about it. But the mass has grown unmanageable, even by those robust professional readers who can ?grapple with whole libraries.? And I am not a professional reader. I am a writer, just as I might be a hotel-keeper, a solicitor, a doctor, a grocer, or an earthenware manufacturer. I read in my scanty spare time, and I don?t read in all my spare time, either. I have other distractions. I read what I feel inclined to read, and I am conscious of no duty to finish a book that I don?t care to finish. I read in my leisure, not from a sense of duty, not to improve myself, but solely because it gives me pleasure to read. Sometimes it takes me a month to get through one book. I expect my case is quite an average case. But am I going to fetter my buying to my reading? Not exactly! I want to have lots of books on my shelves because I know they are good, because I know they would amuse me, because I like to look at them, and because one day I might have a caprice to read them. (Berkeley, even thy turn may come!) In short, I want them because I want them. And shall I be deterred from possessing them by the fear of some sequestered and singular person, some person who has read vastly but who doesn?t know the difference between a J.S. Muria cigar and an R.P. Muria, strolling in and bullying me with the dreadful query: ?_Sir, do you read your books?_
The moment you're born you're done for.
Time is the explicable raw material of everything.
You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.
If my typical man wishes to live fully and completely he must, in his mind, arrange a day within a day. And this inner day, a Chinese box in a larger Chinese box, must begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 a.m. It is a day of sixteen hours; and during all these sixteen hours he has nothing whatever to do but cultivate his body and his soul and his fellow men.
Lie down again and resume the uneasy doze which you call your existence.
Novels are excluded from 'serious reading,' so that the man who, bent on self-improvement, has been deciding to devote ninety minutes three times a week to a complete study of the works of Charles Dickens will be well advised to alter his plans. The reason is not that novels are not serious-some of the great literature of the world is in the form of prose fiction-the reason is that bad novels ought not to be read, and that good novels never demand any appreciable mental application on the part of the reader. A good novel rushes you forward like a skiff down a stream, and you arrive at the end, perhaps breathless, but unexhausted. The best novels involve the least strain. Now in the cultivation of the mind one of the most important factors is precisely the feeling of strain, of difficulty, of a task which one part of you is anxious to achieve and another part of you is anxious to shirk; and that feeling cannot be got in facing a novel.
Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No mysterious power will say:?This man is a fool, if not a knave. He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter. It is more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected by Sundays. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you
The most important of all perceptions is the continual perception of cause and effect?in other words, the perception of the continuous development of the universe?in still other words, the perception of the course of evolution. When one has thoroughly got imbued into one's head the leading truth that nothing happens without a cause, one grows not only large-minded, but large-hearted. It is hard to have one's watch stolen, but one reflects that the thief of the watch became a thief from causes of heredity and environment which are as interesting as they are scientifically comprehensible; and one buys another watch, if not with joy, at any rate with a philosophy that makes bitterness impossible. One loses, in the study of cause and effect, that absurd air which so many people have of being always shocked and pained by the curiousness of life. Such people live amid human nature as if human nature were a foreign country full of awful foreign customs. But, having reached maturity, one ought surely to be ashamed of being a stranger in a strange land!
To my mind the most poignant mystical exhoration ever written is Be still and know that I am God.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.
If you have time you can obtain money?usually. But though you have the wealth of a cloak-room attendant at the Carlton Hotel, you cannot buy yourself a minute more time than I have, or the cat by the fire has.
Literature exists so that where one man has lived finely ten thousand may afterward live finely
Now a prig is a pert fellow who gives himself airs of superior wisdom. A prig is a pompous fool who has gone out for a ceremonial walk, and without knowing it has lost an important part of his attire, namely, his sense of humor. A prig is a tedious individual who, having made a discovery, is so impressed by his discovery that he is capable of being gravely displeased because the entire world is not also impressed by it. Unconsciously to become a prig is an easy and a fatal thing.
The artist who is too sensitive for contacts with the non-artistic world is thereby too sensitive for his vocation, and fit only to fall into gentle ecstasies over the work of artists less sensitive than himself.
The most important preliminary to the task of arranging one's life so that one may live fully and comfortably within one's daily budget of twenty-four hours is the calm realisation of the extreme difficulty of the task, of the sacrifices and the endless effort which it demands. I cannot too strongly insist on this.
To the artist is sometimes granted a sudden, transient insight which serves in this matter for experience. A flash, and where previously the brain held a dead fact, the soul grasps a living truth! At moments we are all artists.
You had better give up hope at once. If you are not prepared for discouragements and disillusions; if you will not be content with a small result for a big effort, then do not begin.
If you imagine that you will be able to achieve your ideal by ingeniously planning out a timetable with a pen on a piece of paper, you had better give up hope at once.If you are not prepared for discouragements and disillusions; if you will not be content with a small result for a big effort, then do not begin. Lie down again and resume the uneasy doze which you call your existence.
Make love to every woman you meet; if you get five per cent of your outlay it's a good investment.
Now that I have drawn your attention to the glaring, dazzling truth that you never will have more time, since you already have all the time there is?
The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy, brooding, is to go deliberately forth and try to lift with one's sympathy the gloom of somebody else.
The people who live in the past must yield to the people who live in the future. Otherwise the world would begin to turn the other way round.
To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking.
You probably think of the orchestra as a heterogeneous mass of instruments producing a confused agreeable mass of sound. You do not listen for details because you have never trained your ears to listen to details.