Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical
conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts
this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.
I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.
...we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons...
It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothing until we know nothing.
...anything which is rational is always difficult for the lay mind. But the thing which
is irrational any one can understand. That is why religion came so early into the world,
...and why science came so late...
The modern artistic temperament cannot understand how a man could write such lyrics
as Shakespeare wrote, could be as keen as Shakespeare was on business transactions in a
little town in Warwickshire. The explanation is simple enough; it is that Shakespeare
had a real lyric impulse, wrote a real lyric, and so got rid of the impulse and went about his
business. Being an artist did not prevent him from being an ordinary man, any more than
being a sleeper at night or being a diner at dinner prevented him from being an ordinary man.
To very great minds the things on which men agree are so immeasurably more important
than the things on which they differ, that the latter, for all practical purposes disappear. They
have too much in them of an ancient laughter even to endure to discuss the difference between
hats of two men who were both born of a woman, or between the subtly varied cultures of two
men who have both to die.
The institution of the family is to be commended for precisely the same reasons that the institution
of the nation, or the institution of the city, are in this matter to be commended. It is a good thing
for a man to live in a family for the same reason that it is a good thing for a man to be besieged in
a city. It is a good thing for a man to live in a family in the same sense that it is a beautiful and
delightful thing for a man to be snowed up in a street. They all force him to realize that life is not
a thing from outside, but a thing from inside. Above all, they all insist upon the fact that life, if it
be a truly stimulating and fascinating life, is a thing which, of its nature, exists in spite of ourselves.
The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad
institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or
pathos, that perhaps the family is not very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution
because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and
varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms,
is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy. It is exactly because our brother George is not
interested in our religious difficulties, but is interested in the Trocadero Restaurant, that the family has
some of the bracing qualities of the commonwealth. It is precisely because our uncle Henry does not
approve of the theatrical ambitions of our sister Sarah that the family is like humanity. The men and
women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad,
simply revolting against mankind.
Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind.
Papa is excitable, like mankind.
Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind.
Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world.
Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world.
They are dismayed and terrified by the largeness and variety of the family. Sarah wishes to find a world wholly
consisting of private theatricals; George wishes to think the Trocadero a cosmos. I do not say, for a moment, that
the flight to this narrower life may not be the right thing for the individual, any more than I say the same thing
about flight into a monastery. But I do say that anything is bad and artificial which tends to make these succumb
to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more people varied than
their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would
be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside.
And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.
There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse
than in the man who eats grape-nuts on principle.