Noble Essences: A Book of Characters

Noble Essences: A Book of Characters

Noble Essences: A Book of Characters

Noble Essences: A Book of Characters

Excerpt

A ROBUST old country neighbor, one of the last of the squires, was heard during a severe thunderstorm thus to address his faithful and aging servant: "Alec, you damn fool, don't stand about there, doing nothing! Climb up the lightning conductor, can't you, and see if it's working!" The man who climbs such an instrument naturally leads a more exciting life than does he who watches the hurricane and writes about it: in short, as I have argued before, a writer's life is duller than that of a man of action. Yet would I rather read an account of the storm by one who had watched it than by one who climbed the lightning conductor; and further, I would rather read a book which concerned Leonardo, let us say, and Baudelaire or a lesser artist, than the most circumstantial and detailed volume devoted to the Battle of Waterloo, or a prize fight. . . . The chapters, then, that follow deal with character and atmosphere more than with action, and though during the course of my autobiography I have more than once stated the main themes of the whole work, yet it is better, perhaps, to recapitulate here, in general, as well as to state plainly and in particular, my conception of this final and very different volume. My aim throughout the thousand or so preceding pages has been to portray the age in which history came to life again, the stirrings and then the great storms that followed the historic halcyon epoch (for the Victorian Age into which I was born constituted what is termed by farmers in Derbyshire a "weather breeder": the false calm -- but none the less calm and sweet for that -- of . . .

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