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A Dish of Orts : Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare   By: (1824-1905)

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A DISH OF ORTS

BY

GEORGE MACDONALD

PREFACE.

Since printing throughout the title Orts , a doubt has arisen in my mind as to its fitting the nature of the volume. It could hardly, however, be imagined that I associate the idea of worthlessness with the work contained in it. No one would insult his readers by offering them what he counted valueless scraps, and telling them they were such. These papers, those two even which were caught in the net of the ready writer from extempore utterance, whatever their merits in themselves; are the results of by no means trifling labour. So much a man ought to be able to say for his work. And hence I might defend, if not quite justify my title for they are but fragmentary presentments of larger meditation. My friends at least will accept them as such, whether they like their collective title or not.

The title of the last is not quite suitable. It is that of the religious newspaper which reported the sermon. I noted the fact too late for correction. It ought to be True Greatness .

The paper on The Fantastic Imagination had its origin in the repeated request of readers for an explanation of things in certain shorter stories I had written. It forms the preface to an American edition of my so called Fairy Tales.

GEORGE MACDONALD.

EDENBRIDGE, KENT. August 5, 1893.

CONTENTS.

THE IMAGINATION: ITS FUNCTIONS AND ITS CULTURE

A SKETCH OF INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT

ST. GEORGE'S DAY, 1564

THE ART OF SHAKSPERE, AS REVEALED BY HIMSELF

THE ELDER HAMLET

ON POLISH

BROWNING'S "CHRISTMAS EVE"

"ESSAYS ON SOME OF THE FORMS OF LITERATURE"

"THE HISTORY AND HEROES OF MEDICINE"

WORDSWORTH'S POETRY

SHELLEY

A SERMON

TRUE CHRISTIAN MINISTERING

THE FANTASTIC IMAGINATION

THE IMAGINATION: ITS FUNCTIONS AND ITS CULTURE. [Footnote: 1867.]

There are in whose notion education would seem to consist in the production of a certain repose through the development of this and that faculty, and the depression, if not eradication, of this and that other faculty. But if mere repose were the end in view, an unsparing depression of all the faculties would be the surest means of approaching it, provided always the animal instincts could be depressed likewise, or, better still, kept in a state of constant repletion. Happily, however, for the human race, it possesses in the passion of hunger even, a more immediate saviour than in the wisest selection and treatment of its faculties. For repose is not the end of education; its end is a noble unrest, an ever renewed awaking from the dead, a ceaseless questioning of the past for the interpretation of the future, an urging on of the motions of life, which had better far be accelerated into fever, than retarded into lethargy.

By those who consider a balanced repose the end of culture, the imagination must necessarily be regarded as the one faculty before all others to be suppressed. "Are there not facts?" say they. "Why forsake them for fancies? Is there not that which, may be known ? Why forsake it for inventions? What God hath made, into that let man inquire."

We answer: To inquire into what God has made is the main function of the imagination. It is aroused by facts, is nourished by facts; seeks for higher and yet higher laws in those facts; but refuses to regard science as the sole interpreter of nature, or the laws of science as the only region of discovery.

We must begin with a definition of the word imagination , or rather some description of the faculty to which we give the name.

The word itself means an imaging or a making of likenesses. The imagination is that faculty which gives form to thought not necessarily uttered form, but form capable of being uttered in shape or in sound, or in any mode upon which the senses can lay hold. It is, therefore, that faculty in man which is likest to the prime operation of the power of God, and has, therefore, been called the creative faculty, and its exercise creation . Poet means maker . We must not forget, however, that between creator and poet lies the one unpassable gulf which distinguishes far be it from us to say divides all that is God's from all that is man's; a gulf teeming with infinite revelations, but a gulf over which no man can pass to find out God, although God needs not to pass over it to find man; the gulf between that which calls, and that which is thus called into being; between that which makes in its own image and that which is made in that image... Continue reading book >>




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