But that value, which is contributed by the reader, perhaps illicitly, in his desire to get as much into the book from all possible sources as he can, must be ruled out here.There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay.
And so, striding unconcernedly from one idea to the next, we traverse a large stretch of ground; observe that a wound in the solicitor is a very serious thing; that Mary Queen of Scots wears surgical boots and is subject to fits near the Horse Shoe in Tottenham Court Road; take it for granted that no one really cares about Aeschylus; and so, with many amusing anecdotes and some profound reflections, reach the peroration, which is that, as he had been told not to see more in Cheapside than he could get into twelve pages of the , he had better stop.
And yet obviously Butler is at least as careful of our pleasure as Stevenson, and to write like oneself and call it not writing is a much harder exercise in style than to write like Addison and call it writing well. It might even be said that there was a reversion to the classic type and that the essay by losing its size and something of its sonority was approaching more nearly the essay of Addison and Lamb. Birrell on Carlyle and the essay which one may suppose that Carlyle would have written upon Mr. There is little similarity between , by Leslie Stephen.
Somehow or other, by dint of labor or bounty of nature, or both combined, the essay must be pure--pure like water or pure like wine, but pure from dullness, deadness, and deposits of extraneous matter.
Of all writers in the first volume, Walter Pater best achieves this arduous task, because before setting out to write his essay (' Notes on Leonardo da Vinci') he has somehow contrived to get his material fused.
And perhaps that is why the peroration-- To sit still and contemplate--to remember the faces of women without desire, to be pleased by the great deeds of men without envy, to be everything and everywhere in sympathy and yet content to remain where and what you are-- has the sort of insubstantiality which suggests that by the time he got to the end he had left himself nothing solid to work with. Think your own thoughts, he seems to say, and speak them as plainly as you can.
These turtles in the shop window which appear to leak out of their shells through heads and feet suggest a fatal faithfulness to a fixed idea.Hutton in the following passage: Add to this that his married life was brief, only seven years and a half, being unexpectedly cut short, and that his passionate reverence for his wife's memory and genius--in his own words, 'a religion'--was one which, as he must have been perfectly sensible, he could not make to appear otherwise than extravagant, not to say an hallucination, in the eyes of the rest of mankind, and yet that he was possessed by an irresistible yearning to attempt to embody it in all the tender and enthusiastic hyperbole of which it is so pathetic to find a man who gained his fame by his 'dry-light' a master, and it is impossible not to feel that the human incidents in Mr. A book could take that blow, but it sinks an essay.A biography in two volumes is indeed the proper depository, for there, where the licence is so much wider, and hints and glimpses of outside things make part of the feast (we refer to the old type of Victorian volume), these yawns and stretches hardly matter, and have indeed some positive value of their own.Yet, if the essay admits more properly than biography or fiction of sudden boldness and metaphor, and can be polished till every atom of its surface shines, there are dangers in that too. Soon the current, which is the life-blood of literature, runs slow; and instead of sparkling and flashing or moving with a quieter impulse which has a deeper excitement, words coagulate together in frozen sprays which, like the grapes on a Christmas-tree, glitter for a single night, but are dusty and garnish the day after.The temptation to decorate is great where the theme may be of the slightest.But when Mark Pattison has to tell us, in the space of thirty-five little pages, about Montaigne, we feel that he had not previously assimilated M. Literal truth-telling and finding fault with a culprit for his good are out of place in an essay, where everything should be for our good and rather for eternity than for the March number of the .But if the voice of the scold should never be heard in this narrow plot, there is another voice which is as a plague of locusts--the voice of a man stumbling drowsily among loose words, clutching aimlessly at vague ideas, the voice, for example, of Mr.Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole--a portrait of a man, a sketch of an age, a theory of the art of writing." Here, assuming the guise of the common reader, she offers "a few . Compare Woolf's thoughts on essay writing with those expressed by Maurice Hewlett in "The Maypole and the Column" and by Charles S. Rhys truly says, it is unnecessary to go profoundly into the history and origin of the essay--whether it derives from Socrates or Siranney the Persian--since, like all living things, its present is more important than its past.Moreover, the family is widely spread; and while some of its representatives have risen in the world and wear their coronets with the best, others pick up a precarious living in the gutter near Fleet Street. The essay can be short or long, serious or trifling, about God and Spinoza, or about turtles and Cheapside.The essay must lap us about and draw its curtain across the world.So great a feat is seldom accomplished, though the fault may well be as much on the reader's side as on the writer's. A novel has a story, a poem rhyme; but what art can the essayist use in these short lengths of prose to sting us wide awake and fix us in a trance which is not sleep but rather an intensification of life--a basking, with every faculty alert, in the sun of pleasure?