CENTAURS AND ELEPHANTS
(One of a series of talks)
I WAS just going home after giving my last talk, when several members of the audience came up to me - I'm sure there's no harm in saying this sort of thing among friends, as you all are by now - well, as I say, they came up to me, shook me warmly by the hand, and seemed much impressed by my performance. They followed me down the road, calling out all kinds of complimentary remarks, until I began to feel quite embarrassed, realizing how little I'd done to deserve it. But the chief point they made, the one feature they all picked out for special praise, was the paradoxical nature of my ideas. Perhaps I'd better quote their actual words:
'Such originality!' they exclaimed. 'So wonderfully unusual! The man's a genius! How on earth does he think of such things?'
They made several other such comments, which evidently expressed their genuine reactions to my talk - for what reason had they to lie? Why should they wish to flatter a perfect stranger, who wasn't worth bothering about from any other point ofview? However, I must admit that I found this praise of theirs extremely annoying, and when they finally went off and left me to myself, I started thinking:
'So the one and only charm of my productions is that they're off the beaten track! As for any beauty of phrasing, conceived on classical lines, any acuteness, or profundity, or Attic grace, or polished style, or architectonic skill, apparently there's nothing of that sort in my work whatever! If there were, they wouldn't ignore it, and only praise the novelty of my material.'