The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

Shorter commonplaces

Bits and bobs that have no other home, unless I want to scribble them down in a notebook, which I would then probably lose. (Then they would not only be unhoused, they would be forgotten: thus defeating the purpose.)

‘…all the passionate confidence of interested falsehood’ —Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations, vol. 2, p. 82)

¶ 3 January 2024, around 7.40.

‘I have a remarkable memory: I forget everything! It is wonderfully convenient. It is as though the world were constantly renewing itself for me.’ —Jules Renard (Journal, trans. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget, April 1907)

¶ 3 October 2023, around 16.28.

‘Books that speak like the noise of multitudes reduce to despair by the sheer weight of their emptiness. They entertain us like the lights of the city streets at night, by hopes they cannot fulfil.’ —Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, ch. xiv

¶ 26 January 2023, around 17.33.

‘His desire for a career as a man of letters was not matched by his ability as an editor or as a writer of verse or prose’ —Dorothy Thompson, The Dignity of Chartism

¶ 11 January 2023, around 11.45.

‘…words are vessels that are filled with experience that overflows the vessels. The words point to an experience; they are not the experience’ —Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be? (Chapter V, Section 1: Being Active)

¶ 4 January 2023, around 13.26.

Underlining personalizes the book. The marks become traces of your interest.’ (124)

If the book is yours and it does not have antiquarian value, do not hesitate to annotate it. Do not trust those who say that you must respect books. You respect books by using them, not leaving them alone.’ (125f.) —Umberto Eco, How to Write a Thesis (trans. C. M. Farina & G. Farina)

¶ 23 November 2022, around 13.34.

Non mehercules ieiuna esse et arida volo, quae de rebus tam magnis dicentur; neque enim philosophia ingenio renuntiat. Multum tamen operae inpendi verbis non oportet.’ —Seneca, Epistulae Morales, 75.3

¶ 22 November 2022, around 7.45.

‘In their doctrine freedom of spirit is taken from man in the name of his own happiness; social eudaemonism is set up against liberty. If truth does not exist, then nothing is left but this compulsory organization of social happiness.’ —Berdyaev, Dostoevsky (trans. Attwater)

¶ 6 October 2022, around 16.38.

‘…if one finds an absolutely comfortable sitting place in a spot not designed for sitting, one is taken over by a mystical happiness, one of life’s most profound, most agreeable joys.’ —Miklós Szentkuthy, on windowsills, Towards the One & Only Metaphor (trans. Tim Wilkinson)

¶ 4 September 2022, around 17.10.

‘All genuine thought and art is to a certain extent an attempt to put big heads on small people: so it is no wonder the attempt does not always come off.’ —Schopenhauer

¶ 5 August 2022, around 6.05.

‘It is not just a matter of music but of how to live: it is by speed slowness that one slips in among things, that one connects with something else. One never commences; one never has a tabula rasa; one slips in, enters in the middle….’ —Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy

¶ 31 July 2022, around 17.41.

‘Arthur Symons was talking of some foreign city, carrying in his waistcoat pocket, as it were, the genius loci, anon to be embalmed in Pateresque prose. I forget whether this time it was Rome or Seville or Moscow or what…’ —Max Beerbohm, ‘First Meetings with W.B. Yeats

¶ 21 July 2022, around 8.57.

‘Nothing whatever, except a harsh and dismal superstition, prohibits enjoyment.’ —Spinoza, Ethics, pt.IV, Prop. 45, Schol. 2 (trans. George Eliot)

¶ 27 March 2022, around 13.55.

‘…it is true that I long syth haue redde and herde that the beste clerkes ben not the wysest men’ —Reynard the Fox (Caxton trans.)

¶ 20 March 2022, around 9.21.

‘Besides, there is nothing so plain boring as the constant repetition of assertions that are not true, and sometimes not even faintly sensible’ —J.L. Austin, Sense and Sensibilia, explaining why no one reads novels.

¶ 8 March 2022, around 16.38.

‘There are, first of all, people who have homes without offices: these are, paradoxically, either the very rich or the very poor.’ —Fredric Jameson, Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality

¶ 9 January 2022, around 12.08.

‘Good carpentry can make a secret door in any wall.’ —William James, from Essays in Psychical Research

¶ 25 October 2021, around 6.08.

‘The moment we allow ourselves to ask why some things are not otherwise, instead of endeavouring to account for them as they are, we shall never know where to stop; we shall be led into the grossest, and most childish absurdities’ —Malthus, ray of sunshine

‘Leisure is, without a doubt, highly valuable to man; but taking man as he is, the probability seems to be that, in the greater number of instances, it will produce evil rather than good.’ (ibid)

¶ 11 July 2021, around 13.23.

‘The superiority of intellectual to sensual pleasures consists rather in their filling up more time, in their having a larger range, and in their being less liable to satiety, than in their being more real and essential.’ —Malthus, in the midst of being cranky about Godwin

¶ 10 July 2021, around 5.45.

The impossibility of satisfying even oneself; or, on having no clean linen in which to wrap things:

Yes, I once knew a woman who spent all her time washing her linen, in order to be always fresh and sweet smelling. But as she was always washing dirty linen and thus making the linen she wore dirtier than it might have been if she had washed less, she smelled of nothing but dirty linen. And why? Because she was over-sincere and a hypocrite. She got stranded in the fact of clean linen instead of moving on to the effect of clean linen, which is the end of the circle. And you are all like that.

—Laura Riding (Anarchism Is Not Enough)

¶ 29 May 2021, around 18.21.

‘But come a little closer, darlings, that I may kick you a little harder.’ —Laura Riding, Anarchism Is Not Enough

¶ 29 May 2021, around 18.10.

But already we may speak of the body as an ever advancing boundary between the future and the past, as a pointed end, which our past is continually driving forward into our future.

—Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (trans. N.M. Paul & W.S. Palmer)

¶ 13 April 2021, around 12.56.

‘What would all knowledge of the present be without a divine remembrance of the past, and without an even more fortunate intimation of the future, as Socrates owed to his daemon?’ —Johann Georg Hamann, A flying letter to nobody, the well known (trans. K. Haynes)

¶ 24 February 2021, around 17.25.

‘And it is not worth the trouble of thinking of philosophy; all the more horoscopes! – more than spider-webs in a ruined castle.’ —Hamann, Aesthetica in nuce (trans. Kenneth Haynes)

¶ 20 February 2021, around 7.40.

‘Unravel me that miserable mixture of equivalent sensations, of memories without employment, dreams without credit, conjectures without consistency…Summon and rally all those little unfocused forces which are adrift in your fatigue. Your weakness is simply their confusion.’ —Paul Valéry, Dialogues (trans. W.M. Stewart)

¶ 16 February 2021, around 12.00.

‘Think in moderation. Remain on your bed. Contemplate on the wall the daylight vanishing, and the balance of light and shadow pursuing one another insensibly towards the night. Simple time is a great remedy.’ —Paul Valéry, Dialogues (trans. W.M. Stewart)

¶ 16 February 2021, around 11.50.

‘They were old maids. They weren’t cranky because they hadn’t had a man but because they’d had too many old books.’ —the gravedigger, qtd. in Ronald Blythe, Akenfield

¶ 12 February 2021, around 6.24.

‘The periwig constitutes a chapter by itself not only in the history of dress but in the history of civilization.’ —Huizinga, Homo Ludens

¶ 21 January 2021, around 8.19.

‘A State is never a utilitarian institution pure and simple. It congeals on the surface of time like frost-flowers on a windowpane, and is as unpredictable, as ephemeral and, in its pattern, as rigidly causal to all appearances as they.’ —Huizinga, Homo Ludens

¶ 21 January 2021, around 8.09.

‘The language of birds is very ancient, and, like other ancient modes of speech, very elliptical; little is said, but much is meant and understood.’ —Gilbert White, The Natural History of Selborne, letter xliii to the hon. Daines Barrington, 9 September 1778

¶ 4 January 2021, around 13.01.

‘…it is difficult to draw the line between idleness and dawdling over work. I dawdled from a mixture of mental infirmity, bad habit, and the necessity of thoroughness if I was to understand and not merely remember.’ —Mark Pattison, Memoirs

¶ 3 January 2021, around 9.09.

‘We live on the circumference of a hollow circle. We draw the circumference, like spiders, out of ourselves: it is all criticism of criticism.’ —Laura (Riding) Jackson, Anarchism Is Not Enough

‘…their inability to distinguish between the interestingness of dull poetry and the dullness of “interesting” poetry.’ —Laura (Riding) Jackson, Anarchism Is Not Enough

¶ 1 January 2021, around 18.24.

‘I read all the time: newspapers, magazines, fiction, nonfiction, but it’s important for me to feel interpolated; to feel like the thing I am reading will lead to another and another…’ —Moyra Davey (‘Opposite of Low Hanging Fruit’, in Index Cards)

¶ 19 December 2020, around 14.24.

‘The conversion of nothing into something is the task of criticism. Literature is the storehouse of these rescued somethings.’ —Laura (Riding) Jackson (Anarchism Is Not Enough)

¶ 16 December 2020, around 12.05.

‘In the art of not living one is not ephemerally permanent but permanently ephemeral.’ —Laura (Riding) Jackson (Anarchism Is Not Enough)

¶ 15 December 2020, around 17.56.

Life is always in excess of the stories we tell about it – to others, to ourselves. Always the awkward relation is a sign of more to come; the stories which don’t fit; the lives lived in parallel universes, intersecting, overlapping, together and apart. A real life includes conflict, anger, mistakes; it spills over into the next generation, the generation after that.

—Alison Light, on the limits of biographical writing (Mrs. Woolf and the Servants)

¶ 28 September 2020, around 19.44.

A class of small children were being asked if they liked to watch programmes which had lots of violent action in them. One small boy’s eyes lit up as he told the reporter how exciting he found it, how it made him feel that he wanted to be strong like that, to run in and kick, and knock people down. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ asked the reporter. The instant reply was: ‘A policeman’.

—D. F. McKenzie (Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts)

¶ 26 September 2020, around 10.12.

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