Literary Studies - Vol. 1

Literary Studies - Vol. 1

Read FREE!

Literary Studies - Vol. 1

Literary Studies - Vol. 1

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The writer of literary miscellanies is a suspected person. For casual skimming in a weekly or monthly review he is all very well; but has he any right to the comparative eternity of publishers' cloth? His matter smells of the common-place book, his method suggests the pump-handle. He thinks in paragraphs, sorts the world into pages, and sees men as columns walking. We doubt his authority; he writes, but does he know? The first essential of good writing is the having of something to say, a condition often unfulfilled in the case of the miscellaneous author. Knowledge is the mother of eloquence in literature, just as, unfortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. If you are to transfer something of life into your book, you must know life and not merely the vital statistics accessible in the books of others. An original writer is inspired by life, an imitative author by literature. The one reports at first hand, the other at second, or fifth, hand. The work of the one is vital, the work of the other vitiated by inbreeding and the consumption of breathed air. Thus the better part of the world prefers its men of letters to be men of experience as well, and not mere literary dilettanti who shrink from contact with reality. How far the preference is sound can be decided by a rapid review of the varied, and sometimes tumultuous careers of many great writers.

Now this is specially applicable to the case of Walter Bagehot, first because he was a miscellaneous writer who has survived by his fitness, next because he happened to be a distinguished man of affairs as well as a distinguished man of letters, and next because he has expressed, in his own incisive way, the general sense of the world in such matters. Shakespeare is to him a type of the " experiencing mind " with a store of first-hand observation as material, while Southey represents the mere man of letters, the literary manufacturer, who lived in a vacuum, and with painful industry wrote poetry before breakfast, philosophy before lunch, and history before dinner. Certainly there was no keener man of the world than Bagehot himself. He knew men, he knew politics, he knew business; and that knowledge is revealed in all he wrote. His essays are alive because he was alive; his financial theory is intelligent because he was a financier in practice; and his constitutional philosophy is sound because he knew both politics and politicians. Without "the vision and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.