Esteemed thinker: George Field

20140715_124832 There are three primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, and three secondary colors, orange, purple, and green, which are created by mixing one primary color with another. For example: if you mix a dash of yellow with a dash of red you will produce orange. For our youngest members of society, this in itself is magic. As we turn our colors from one shade to another, we can become more creative with the names. Dark blue, resembling the night sky, can have the moniker of “midnight blue”, while a more vibrant blend of blue and green may be referred to as “turquoise”.

But it was just recently; upon a re-voyage to the Caribbean Sea that I decided the names of the blues did not satisfy my request for identification of the water’s color. There seemed to be nothing on the “proverbial” palette that would announce such grandeur, such beauty, for as one would venture from wave to wave, the sun upon the surface changed the blues like a chameleon dashing from leaf to leaf.

And so, my tongue was tied to the usual color selections however, I know better than to hold such radiance hostage within the framework of the color-wheel.

NPG D20848; George Field by David Lucas, after  Richard RothwellToday’s blog introduces the esteemed thinker: George Field (1777- 1854), the British chemist, who helped alter British painting both aesthetically and practically. It was during the industrial revolution that an increased knowledge of chemistry allowed early nineteenth-century painters to benefit from the most dramatic increase in the number of new natural and synthetic pigments and refined color processing developments. Field, buttressed his theories with reliable information about light-fast, durable pigments, all based on his own scientific experiments and manufacturing processes.

In 1835, he published Chromatography, although already recognized by professional painters as London’s most important color-maker and supplier.

I now bring you a piece of his writing from FIELD’S CHROMATOGRAPHY; OR, TREATISE ON COLOURS AND PIGMENTS AS USED BY ARTISTS. From the essay, The relations of harmony and colour, here is something to ponder.

“Assured as we must be of the importance of colouring as a branch of art, colours in all their bearings become interesting to the artist, and on their use and arrangement his reputation as a colourist must depend.
Colour, remarks Ruskin, is wholly relative; each hue throughout a work is altered by every touch added in other places. Thus, to place white beside a colour is to heighten its tone; to set black beside a colour is to weaken its tone; while to put grey beside a colour, is to render it more brilliant. If a dark colour be placed near a different, but lighter colour, the tone of the first is heightened, while that of the second is lowered. An important consequence of this principle is, that the first effect may neutralize the second, or even destroy it altogether. …

We learn from these relations of colours, why dapplings of two or more produce effects in painting so much more clear and brilliant than uniform tints obtained by compounding the same colours: and why hatchings, or a touch of their contrasts, thrown as it were by accident upon local tints, have the same effect. We see, too, why colours mixed deteriorate each other, which they do more—in many cases—by imperfectly neutralizing or subduing each other chromatically, than by any chemical action. Finally, we are impressed with the necessity, not only of using colours pure, but of using pure colours; although pure colouring and brilliancy differ as much from crudeness and harshness, as tone and harmony from murkiness and monotony.

The powers of colours in contrasting each other agree with their correlative powers of light and shade, and are to be distinguished from their powers individually on the eye, which are those of light alone. Thus, although orange and blue are equal powers with respect to each other, as regards the eye they are totally different and opposed. Orange is a luminous colour, and has a powerfully irritating effect, while blue is a shadowy colour, possessing a soothing quality—and it is the same, in various degrees, with other colours …”

Second image: Portrait by David Lucas, after Richard Rothwell mezzotint, 1845 (1839)

Arthur Schopenhauer and the quest for happiness

Happiness posterThere is rarely a time during the day that we are not reminded of things that we do not have, must have, or should aspire to. And though this is surely not unique to the 21st century, what has become more prominent in comparison to decades and centuries ago is the manner and multitude of times these reminders are triggered. Reminders of how we should be younger, drive a better car, obtain faster technology service, and even create smarter children, but left alone many of these ideas may not have ever entered our need list to what has now become to many as an obsession.

With all these prompts comes a subliminal reminder that without these things we are missing out on being truly happy. And so it seems that the goal throughout one’s life is to meet up with standards that perhaps we may not really have generated ourselves, but has been energized by a new quest by what I will call “artificial cultural needs” or a need to acquire.

Obtaining a better and healthy life for one’s self and family is surely an essential need; however, if we were to stand back and evaluate the messages, both verbal and visual, that we see and hear each day, we may realize that sometimes, just perhaps, we are being corralled like cattle to the feeding trough. Are we really so hungry that we need to stop and get off the highway before we get home, are we really so bald that we need to implant more hair, are we really that old that we need to have injections to make us appear younger for only a brief period of time?

What is true happiness? That is the question that has been put forth to the ages for all to ponder and if someone had the answer, they probably wouldn’t tell us…for that would be like so many other promises, something we would have to buy!

-Arthur_Schopenhauer-1845 Today blog invites back the esteemed thinker: Arthur Schopenhauer, (1788-1860), 19th century German philosopher. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to have access to translations of philosophical material from India, both Vedic and Buddhist, by which he was greatly affected. Although he was a rather pessimistic man, aesthetics and beauty were a central theme throughout his thoughts. “Schopenhauer emphasized that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence.” He is noted for his works, On the Will in Nature (1836), The Freedom of the Will (1841), and The Foundations of Morality (1841).

I now bring you a bit of his words about happiness taken from his book of essays titled, The Wisdom of Life. Perhaps he may unravel fro you some of the mysteries shrouding our quest for happiness…

“… So it is with man; the measure of the happiness he can attain is determined beforehand by his individuality. More especially is this the case with the mental powers, which fix once for all his capacity for the higher kinds of pleasure. If these powers are small, no efforts from without, nothing that his fellowmen or that fortune can do for him, will suffice to raise him above the ordinary degree of human happiness and pleasure … For the highest, most varied and lasting pleasures are those of the mind, however much our youth may deceive us on this point; and the pleasures of the mind turn chiefly on the powers of the mind. It is clear, then, that our happiness depends in a great degree upon what we are, upon our individuality, whilst lot or destiny is generally taken to mean only what we have, or our reputation….

…The only thing that stands in our power to achieve, is to make the most advantageous use possible of the personal qualities we possess, and accordingly to follow such pursuits only as will call them into play, to strive after the kind of perfection of which they admit and to avoid every other; consequently, to choose the position, occupation and manner of life which are most suitable for their development…”

First image: 1936: Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of “The pursuit of happiness” at the Waterloo Theater

Esteemed thinker: John Burroughs

robin close up For those who live in a hemisphere that awards the four seasons, it is winter that challenges us to be creative in ways that the other seasons do not. And though we often find ourselves cursing the cold temperatures, there are some who are most fortunate enough to be able to turn discomfort into pleasure… There are some lucky folks that can defrost frosty sentiments by a warm fireplace. In these homes cold hands are reminders to make a mug of hot chocolate, while icy feet walk themselves into a pair of woolly slippers.

And though many would prefer to remain indoors so as not to be bitten by its harsh winds; if you take a look from your window, winter has invited into its world some very enchanting visitors, birds. Look closely among the leafless branches, under the holly bushes, or flitting to and fro, and you may find quite a variety of winged guests, which makes you wonder how it is that they are not cold.

Against the whiteness of snow one notices the scarlet head crest of the cardinal, the black caps and bibs of the chickadees, the iridescent green and purple flossed head of the starlings, and hidden in the house eves are the rust colored sparrows. The birds of winter are like pieces of a rainbow that have broken off and flutter from snow crest to crest; they delight our world from our safe warm place in the winter.

John BurroughsToday’s post introduces the literary naturalist of the ninetieth century,
the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921). Born in Roxbury, N.Y., he is credited as an essayist, environmentalist, and the man who revolutionized the “conservation movement” in the United States. Burroughs quest to become a writer turned favorable when he befriended the poet Walt Whitman, who encouraged him to continue the path he loved. His writings and studies regarding nature later granted him the title of, “The Grand Old Man of Nature.” Best known for his observations of birds, flowers, and rural America, it is his quote that exemplifies his true feelings; “I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral.”

From his book titled, Birds, and Bees Sharp Eyes and Other Papers, I have prepared a brief reading. Find a quiet moment to take in the sights revealed by our essayist and champion of nature, Mr. Burroughs….

“…These sparrows are becoming about the most noticeable of my winter neighbors, and a troop of them every morning watch me put out the hens’ feed, and soon claim their share. I rather encouraged them in their neighborliness, till one day I discovered the snow under a favorite plum-tree where they most frequently perched covered with the scales of the fruit-buds. On investigating I found that the tree had been nearly stripped of its buds—a very unneighborly act on the part of the sparrows, considering, too, all the cracked corn I had scattered for them …

… The bird that seems to consider he has the best right to the bone both upon the tree and upon the sill is the downy woodpecker, my favorite neighbor among the winter birds His retreat is but a few paces from my own, in the decayed limb of an apple-tree which he excavated several autumns ago. I say “he” because the red plume on the top of his head proclaims the sex. It seems not to be generally known to our writers upon ornithology that certain of our woodpeckers—probably all the winter residents—each fall excavate a limb or the trunk of a tree in which to pass the winter, and that the cavity is abandoned in the spring, probably for a new one in which nidification takes place. So far as I have observed, these cavities are drilled out only by the males. Where the females take up their quarters I am not so well informed, though I suspect that they use the abandoned holes of the males of the previous year…”

Edgar Allan Poe and poetic sentiment

annabel_1850The soul of poetry and the soul of art originate from those persons who are sometimes identified, knowingly or unwittingly, as sentimental idealists. And though this label may have pinched the reader, for there are some who would not wish to be considered sentimental, it bears further scrutiny. This ‘sentiment’ is not to be confused with being soft, sappy, nor mushy, but rather a sentiment that indulges the senses and emotions excessively. Such feelings can influence our intellectual or emotional consciousness and depending upon the value we extend to it, we assign these sentiments different names: beauty, pleasure, awe, love, and the like.

As we look back through time and then proceed again forward to the present, opinions of what we believe as having artistic merit and sentiment may have changed. It is here that sets us to wonder; why some artists and authors and musicians were elevated to the highest level of admiration, why some continue to balance upon the pinnacle of fame even after so many centuries, and why those who were once considered great have been relegated to a mere footnote. How is it that our tastes have been so radically altered through the ages, for that which was considered sweet is now bitter? Such a paradox, for sugar still sweetens our tea and a lemon still puckers our lips, yet a poem that once heightened emotions of our ancestors now lies dormant upon the pages like a solemn epitaph.

Alas, there seems to be no real answer only opinions and ideas to be considered. Yet we will continue to nourish our imaginations and hope that we will be roused by those who remain timelessly sentimental…

Edgar Allan Poe 2 Today’s blog brings back America’s great author, the esteemed Edgar Allan Poe (b. Boston 1809-1849). One of the greatest and most influential poet and short story writers of the early 1800s, Poe’s literary genius crosses over into other genres of writing which include critical essays.

In his essay titled “The Poetic Principal”, Poe indulges the reader by providing his critical view and rational pertaining to contemporary poetry and fundamental elements of poetry. I now present a bit of Mr. Poe, and hope that you will take time from your busy day to enjoy his thoughts about Poetic Sentiment and the poet.

“… The Poetic Sentiment, of course, may develop itself in various modes—in Painting, in Sculpture, in Architecture, in the Dance—very especially in Music,—and very peculiarly and with a wide field, in the composition of the Landscape Garden….

We shall reach, however, more immediately a distinct conception of what the true Poetry is, by mere reference to a few of the simple elements which induce in the Poet himself the true poetical effect. He recognizes the ambrosia, which nourishes his soul, in the bright orbs that shine in Heaven, in the volutes of the flower, in the clustering of low shrubberies, in the waving of the grain-fields, in the slanting of the tall, Eastern trees, in the blue distance of mountains, in the grouping of clouds, in the twinkling of half-hidden brooks, in the gleaming of silver rivers, in the repose of sequestered lakes, in the star-mirroring depths of lonely wells. He perceives it in the songs of birds, in the harp of Aeolus, in the sighing of the night-wind, in the repining voice of the forest, in the surf that complains to the shore, in the fresh breath of the woods, in the scent of the violet, in the voluptuous perfume of the hyacinth, in the suggestive odor that comes to him at eventide from far-distant, undiscovered islands, over dim oceans, illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in all noble thoughts, in all unworldly motives, in all holy impulses, in all chivalrous, generous, and self-sacrificing deeds. He feels it in the beauty of woman, in the grace of her step, in the lustre of her eye, in the melody of her voice, in her soft laughter, in her sigh, in the harmony of the rustling of her robes. He deeply feels it in her winning endearments, in her burning enthusiasms, in her gentle charities, in her meek and devotional endurances; but above all—ah! far above all—he kneels to it, he worships it in the faith, in the purity, in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty of her love…”

First Image: The cover of the January, 1850 Sartain’s Union Magazine, Philadelphia, which contained the first publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”.

Esteemed thinker: Samuel Johnson

cuniform What we know of the past is chronicled by a few methods, either physical, such as archeological discoveries, by written documentation, or oral translations passed down from generation to generation. Our senses tell us that the physical discoveries would be the most reliable, being as we can see for ourselves the ruins of great structures or the fragments of daily possessions, such as crockery. Tales passed down shake our senses like a gloomy day; making us feel these narratives may be the least trustworthy for like the fish story, where the fisherman’s catch grows a bit longer and larger each time it is told, we have to wonder how much of the past has been embellished. And then there is the literary form of the biography, where we learn of the feats or defeats of said individual; here we are at the mercy of the author. We can only hope that the facts we read were accurately acquired. Was the source first- hand information transcribed like a stenographer or was the information retold by an acquaintance, neighbor, or distant relative? Was it secured through records archived with the care of a librarian, or found among letters of a scorned lover? Kind of makes you wonder.

Knowledge of the ancient times was documented by the Sumerians (pre-cuneiform) and within Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Plutarch (46-120 A.D.) the Greek philosopher and biographer wrote about the leaders of antiquity which included Caesar and Alexander the Great, while even Shakespeare wrote biographical plays such as “Antony and Cleopatra”. And as we move down the time-line we can parallel the bookshelves in the library and note the spines of countless biographies that continue to delight and intrigue us… and at the same time driving us to wonder how and where all these facts came from.

And so ‘we’ who reside in the present are destined to learn about the past and can only glean from others what life was like and the manner in which a particular person’s temperament and character was tailored for it is only through the lens and pens of those who document the days of long ago that set free and disclose such intimate and not so intimate details.

Who is it then that is worthy of a biography, or can we say is who is not …for each of us comes into the world as innocent and fresh as a new fallen snowflake and makes his or her mark with the same individuality.

Samuel Johnson Today’s blog introduces the esteemed thinker: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English born essayist, poet, literary critic, and lexicographer. Among many of his literary contributions, in 1755, after nine years of dedication, A Dictionary of the English Language was published upon which it was regarded as “one of the single greatest achievements of scholarship.” Dr. Johnson, as he was often called, was considered an extraordinary man of letters; having produced a body of writing and criticisms that include disapproval of colonial expansion, advocacy for the abolition of slavery, encouragement of women writers, and concern for the poor. Though he lived during the 18th century, his appeal for reform likens him to a modern-day figure.

Now, let me encourage you to take a moment from your day to read a portion from his essay titled The Use and dignity of biography.

“…I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful. For, not only every man has, in the mighty mass of the world, great numbers in the same condition with himself, to whom his mistakes and miscarriages, escapes and expedients, would be of immediate and apparent use; but there is such an uniformity in the state of man, considered apart from adventitious and separable decorations and disguises, that there is scarce any possibility of good or ill, but is common to human kind… We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure…

But biography has often been allotted to writers who seem very little acquainted with the nature of their task, or very negligent about the performance. They rarely afford any other account than might be collected from publick papers, but imagine themselves writing a life when they exhibit a chronological series of actions or preferments; and so little regard the manners or behaviour of their heroes, that more knowledge may be gained of a man’s real character, by a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral…

If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, and makes haste to gratify the public curiosity, there is danger lest his interest, his fear, his gratitude, or his tenderness, overpower his fidelity, and tempt him to conceal, if not to invent. There are many who think it an act of piety to hide the faults or failings of their friends, even when they can no longer suffer by their detection; we therefore see whole ranks of characters adorned with uniform panegyrick, and not to be known from one another, but by extrinsick and casual circumstances. “Let me remember,” says Hale, “when I find myself inclined to pity a criminal, that there is likewise a pity due to the country.” If we owe regard to the memory of the dead, there is yet more respect to be paid to knowledge, to virtue, and to truth…

Henry David Thoreau and gifts from Mother Nature

fruit hanns skolle 1928 The earth, the sun, the rain, and man; put them together and often we cultivate a most harmonious synergy…the production of fruit. Without having to be reminded…for the agricultural industry and advertisements like to do this on a daily basis…most of us enjoy the byproducts of our very industrious workers…the farmer and his team of pickers… and we readily buy and eat without having to be coerced.

Let us consider the blueberry….for when it is in season, I make plenty of room in the refrigerator for its arrival, letting the lettuce and other more mundane items know that a special guest is to arrive. I use the term guest for like a relative that can only visit on certain holidays, its stint will sadly only be here a short time. Yet, I suppose we humans are fickle for as soon as blueberry ‘season’ dwindles down to those less than desirable plastic containers left over in the produce department; our salivary glands are once again acting like Pavlov’s dog.

Ahhhh, the cherry…now that is a most delectable fruit…but alas, her stay is much like the first flowers in spring…they appear for a short time to be enjoyed but for only that momentary occasion nature has allocated and then too…it retreats back while we temporarily mourn for its seasonal delight of return.

However, for all fruit lovers there seems to one type in particular that is always in abundance; the steadfast apple, a fine tasting fruit that magically avails itself during all seasons of the year. Much like a dog, it is dependable, forever wanting to please, and comes in many varieties and even colors…red, yellow, green, golden, sweet, tart, big, small, … they (who ever they are) were so sure of its taste that they even named one variety “Delicious” as well as touting its medicinal prowess…well… we all know the adage: “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” Oh, if that were only true! Even the trees that bare such a joyful fruit are first adorned with a multitude of heavenly flowers that perfume the air; tantalizing us with the thought of “what is to be”!

Thoreau_ Lake Waldon Thoreaus’s Cove at Waldon Pond

And so, today’s blog liberates once again the ever esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau: author, naturalist, and dear friend to Mother Nature; the man who helps us ‘see’ beyond the obvious through his writings and personal observations of the world around us. From his lyrical prose, Wild Apples, l have pruned a bit of his essay in order to take us on short walk through his thoughts.

“…Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye. You will discover some evening redness dashed or sprinkled on some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare that the summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere. It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of Nature,—green even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor,—yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills.

Apples, these I mean, unspeakably fair,—apples not of Discord, but Concord! Yet not so rare but that the homeliest may have a share. Painted by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or crimson, as if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the influence of the sun on all sides alike,—some with the faintest pink blush imaginable,—some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow, or with hundreds of fine blood-red rays running regularly from the stem-dimple to the blossom-end, like meridional lines, on a straw-colored ground,—some touched with a greenish rust, like a fine lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches or eyes more or less confluent and fiery when wet,—and others gnarly, and freckled or peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on a white ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside, perfused with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat,—apple of the Hesperides, apple of the evening sky! But like shells and pebbles on the sea-shore, they must be seen as they sparkle amid the withering leaves in some dell in the woods, in the autumnal air, or as they lie in the wet grass, and not when they have wilted and faded in the house…”

(First photo taken in 1928 by Hanns Skoll)

Esteemed thinker: Willliam Carlos Williams

cave If we were posed with the question of” who is considered to be the first artist” we may find a multitude of diverse answers. For we would have to ask ourselves, what are we defining as “art”. For the sake of continuity, let me suggest that perhaps the walls of the El Castillo Cave in Cantabria, Spain served as the first canvas a mere 40,000 years ago. And then there are the very famous Lascaux Caves in France which host the wall drawings of horses, human figures, and abstract signs that we are quite familiar with… Maybe these prehistoric galleries are samples of our first graffiti artists. Alas, I would have to say “no” to the latter since the only means of a platform to draw upon were the cave walls…for all other natural elements such as bark would have disintegrated…and unlike materials for today’s artist … there was no paper, cloth, or even papyrus.

So, what is a work of art? We all have our own opinion, which varies in styles and individual favorites with the same degree of assortment as the changes in weather; and if you rather not trouble yourself with a personal constitution defining what makes up “a work of art” … there is always the critic that does… and will surely bestow their “expert” opinion.

So, to help us weed through some ideas regarding art, I bring to you today’s esteemed thinker: William Carlos Williams (1883 -1963), medical doctor and writer who influenced modern 20th century poetry with his unconventional approach to imagery, “lack of form”, and the use of the “American language”. Williams was considered a modernist in his style; writing a prolific body of work that included essays about literature, music, and painters. He contributed to literary magazines and was a highly sought after lecturer. In 1963 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Pictures from Brueghel.

william carlos williams Let us pause today for Mr. Williams and read from his Selected Essays (1931), “Against the Weather: A Study of the Artist”…taking note of his honest approach with the subject…and when you are finished you may contemplate the caves…is it indeed art?

“… I’ve been writing a sentence, with all the art I can muster. Here it is: A work of art is important only as evidence, in its structure, of a new world which it has been created to affirm.
Let me explain.
A life that is here and now is timeless. That is the universal I am seeking: to embody that in a work of art, a new world that is always “real”.
All things otherwise grow old and rot. By long experience the only thing that remains unchanged and unchangeable is the work of art. It is because of the element of timelessness in it, its sensuality. The only world that exists is the world of the senses. The world of the artist… That is the artist’s work. He might well be working at it during a bombardment, for the bombardment will stop. After a while they will run out of bombs. Then they will need something to fall back on: today. Only the artist can invent it. Without today everything would be lost and they would have to start bombing again as they always do, to hide the lack. If the artist can finish before the attack is over it will be lucky. He is the most important artisan they have.
The work an artist has to do is the most important creation of civilization. It is also its creator…”

Esteemed thinker: A.A. Milne

a.a. milne There are a multitude of experts in the world, and I use that term loosely, who are relied upon to tell others what they like. For example; the interior designer tells the home owner what they like, the stock broker tells the buyer what stocks they like; the advertiser tells the consumer what products they like, and so goes the list. Writers are not immune to this phenomenon for reviewers will relay to the public what they, the reader, will like. So one has to wonder, what makes an ideal author? What are the criteria to which one would find a favorable light cast upon their continence…no, let’s have it cast upon their work.

Is the ideal author one that is the designator for the disenfranchised, the author that dares write what others only think… the author that delights the reader with whimsical stories… or the writer that retells the tales of yore?

So for today’s blog, after we ponder the question, I give you a moment to pause with the thoughts from our esteemed thinker: A.A. Milne (1882-1956). Our London born author is best known (thanks to Walt Disney productions) for his classic work Winnie-the-Poo… But please toss this aside for a moment ; for though the charming tales claimed him international notoriety and success, his career began as the assistant editor of Punch , a British humor magazine; he was a prolific writer, gaining recognition as a novelist, poet, short story and play writer, and essayist. Now, I give you Alan Alexander Milne aka A.A. Milne and a bit of wit from his essay, The Ideal Author

“Samuel Butler* made a habit (and urged it upon every young writer) of carrying a notebook about with him. The most profitable ideas, he felt, do not come from much seeking, but rise unbidden in the mind, and if they are not put down at once on paper, they may be lost forever. But with a notebook in the pocket you are safe; no thought is too fleeting to escape you. Thus, if an inspiration for a five-thousand word story comes suddenly to you during the dessert, you murmur an apology to your neighbour, whip out your pocket-book, and jot down a few rough notes….

If I do not follow Butler’s advice myself, it is not because I get no brilliant inspirations away from my inkpot, nor because, having had the inspirations, I am capable of retaining them until I get back to my inkpot again, but simply because I should never have the notebook and the pencil in the right pockets. But though I do not imitate him, I can admire his wisdom, even while making fun of it. Yet I am sure it was unwise of him to take the public into his confidence. The public prefers to think that an author does not require these earthly aids to composition. It will never quite reconcile itself to the fact that an author is following a profession— a profession by means of which he pays the rent and settles the weekly bills. No doubt the public wants its favourite writers to go on living, but not in the sordid way that its barrister and banker friends live. It would prefer to feel that manna dropped on them from Heaven, and that the ravens erected them a residence; but, having regretfully to reject this theory, it likes to keep up the pretence that the thousand pounds that an author received for his last story came as something of a surprise to him—being, in fact, really more of a coincidence than a reward.

For this reason a layman will never hesitate to ask of an author a free contribution for some local publication.. But the same man would be horrified at the idea of asking a Harley Street surgeon (perhaps even more closely connected with him) to remove his adenoids for nothing. To ask for this (he would feel) would be almost as bad as to ask a gift of ten guineas (or whatever the fee is), whereas to ask a writer for an article is like asking a friend to decant your port for you—a delicate compliment to his particular talent…”

*Samuel Butler was an English Victorian writer.