THE ILLUSION OF HISTORIC
TIME

He who has survived his childhood intelligently must become conscious of something more than a change in his sense of the present and in his apprehension of the future. He must be aware of no less a thing than the destruction of the past. Its events and empires stand where they did, and the mere relation of time is as it was. But that which has fallen together, has fallen in, has fallen close, and lies in a little heap, is the past itself—time—the fact of antiquity.

He has grown into a smaller world as he has grown older. There are no more extremities. Recorded time has no more terrors. The unit of measure which he holds in his hand has become in his eyes a thing of paltry length. The discovery draws in the annals of mankind. He had thought them to be wide.

For a man has nothing whereby to order and place the floods, the states, the conquests, and the temples of the past, except only the measure which he holds. Call that measure a space of ten years. His first ten years had given him the illusion of a most august scale and measure. It was then that he conceived Antiquity. But now! Is it to a decade of ten such little years as these now in his hand—ten of his mature years—that men give the dignity of a century? They call it an

-262-

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Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Winds and Waters 1
  • Ceres' Runaway 3
  • Wells 7
  • Rain 12
  • The Tow Path 15
  • The Tethered Constellations 19
  • Rushes and Reeds 22
  • In a Book Room 27
  • A Northern Fancy 29
  • Pathos 35
  • Anima Pellegrina! 38
  • A Point of Biography 43
  • The Honours of Mortality 48
  • Composure 50
  • The Little Language 55
  • A Counterchange 61
  • Harlequin Mercutio 67
  • Commentaries 71
  • Laughter 73
  • The Rhythm of Life 78
  • Domus Angusta 82
  • Innocence and Experience 86
  • The Hours of Sleep 89
  • Solitude 93
  • Decivilized 99
  • Wayfaring 103
  • The Spirit of Place 105
  • Popular Burlesque 110
  • Have Patience, Little Saint 114
  • At Monastery Gates 120
  • The Sea Wall 126
  • Arts 133
  • Tithonus 135
  • Symmetry and Incident 142
  • The Plaid 152
  • The Flower 156
  • Unstable Equilibrium 159
  • Victorian Caricature 161
  • The Point of Honour 165
  • The Colour of Life 169
  • The Colour of Life 171
  • The Horizon 176
  • In July 181
  • Cloud 184
  • Shadows 188
  • Women and Books 193
  • The Seventeenth Century 195
  • Mrs. Dingley 201
  • Prue 207
  • Mrs. Johnson 213
  • Madame Roland 219
  • The Darling Young 225
  • Fellow Travellers with a Bird 227
  • The Child of Tumult 235
  • The Child of Subsiding Tumult 242
  • The Unready 247
  • That Pretty Person 252
  • Under the Early Stars 259
  • The Illusion of Historic Time 262
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