Books Should Be Free is now
Loyal Books
Free Public Domain Audiobooks & eBook Downloads
Search by: Title, Author or Keyword

Essays   By: (1862-1925)

Book cover

First Page:

ESSAYS

OTHER WORKS BY Mr. A. C. BENSON

In Verse

POEMS, 1893

LYRICS, 1895

In Prose

MEMOIRS OF ARTHUR HAMILTON, 1886

ARCHBISHOP LAUD: A STUDY, 1887

MEN OF MIGHT (in conjunction with H. F. W. TATHAM), 1890

ESSAYS

BY ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON OF ETON COLLEGE

Post aliquot, mea regna videns, mirabor aristas!

LONDON WILLIAM HEINEMANN 1896

All rights reserved

To HENRY JAMES THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED BY HIS AFFECTIONATE FRIEND THE AUTHOR

PREFACE

It would be easy, if need were, to devise a theory of coherence for the Essays here selected for re publication, but the truth is that they are fortuitous. The only claim that I can consistently make, is that I have always chosen, for biographical and critical study, figures whose personality or writings have seemed to me to possess some subtle, evasive charm, or delicate originality of purpose or view. Mystery, inexplicable reticence, haughty austerity, have a fascination in life and literature, that is sometimes denied to sanguine strength and easy volubility. I am well aware that vitality and majesty are the primary qualities to demand both in life and literature. I have nothing but rebellious horror for the view that languor, if only it be subtle and serpentine, is in itself admirable. But there are two kinds of languor. Just as the poverty of a man born needy, and incapable of acquiring wealth, is different in kind from the poverty of one who has sacrificed wealth in some noble cause, so the deliberate, the self conscious languor "about three degrees on this side of faintness," of which Keats wrote in his most voluptuous mood, is a very different thing from the languor of Hamlet, the fastidious despair of ever realising some lofty conception, the prostrate indifference of one who has found the world too strong. I do not say that the note of failure is a characteristic of all the figures in my narrow gallery of portraits. But I will say that they were most of them persons about whom hung an undefined promise of greater strength than ever issued in performance. The causes of their comparative failure are difficult to disentangle. With one perhaps it was the want of a sympathetic entourage ; with another a dreamy or mystical habit of thought; with this one, the immersion in uncongenial pursuits; with that a certain failure in physical vitality; with another, the work, accomplished in dignified serenity, has fallen too swiftly into neglect, and we must endeavour to divine the cause: and yet in no case can we trace any inherent weakness, any moral obliquity, any degrading or enervating concession.

Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes we make in literature and art is the passionate individualism into which we are betrayed. We cannot bring ourselves to speak or think very highly of the level of a man's work, unless the positive and tangible results of that work are in themselves very weighty and pure. We forget all about the inspirers and teachers of poets and artists. How often does the poet, and the artist too, in autobiographical allusion, speak with absorbing gratitude and devotion of some humble name of which we take no note, as the "fons et origo" to himself of enthusiasm and proficiency.

It is with no affectation of fastidious superiority, but with a frank confession of conscious pettiness, that I say that this book will only appeal to a few. The critic is no hero: he is at best but a skipping peltast, engaged as often as not in inglorious flight. To flounder in images, criticism is nothing but a species of mistletoe, sprouting in a sleek bunch in the chink of a lofty forest tree. I had rather have been Lovelace than Sainte Beuve, and write one immortal lyric than thirty five volumes of the acutest discrimination. But a minority has a right to its opinions, and may claim to be amused: a man who thinks the Rhine vulgar, and the Jungfrau exaggerated, may be foolishly delighted with a backwater on the Thames, and a view of the Berkshire downs... Continue reading book >>




eBook Downloads
ePUB eBook
• iBooks for iPhone and iPad
• Nook
• Sony Reader
Kindle eBook
• Mobi file format for Kindle
Read eBook
• Load eBook in browser
Text File eBook
• Computers
• Windows
• Mac

Review this book



Popular Genres
More Genres
Languages
Paid Books