“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” — Orson Welles
Excerpts from the notebooks of English belletrist Geoffrey Madan (1895-1947):
[Eton] masters asleep during Essay in various abandoned attitudes. Hornby like a frozen mammoth in a cave; Stone drooping; Vaughan like a monarch taking his rest; Churchill like a fowl on a perch with a film over his eyes.
A.E. Housman’s epitaph: the only member of the middle classes who never called himself a gentleman.
“It is the cause”: theory that Othello closes and lays down a Bible.
Gladstone’s Virgil quotations, like plovers’ nests: impossible to see till you’ve been shown.
“Love gratified is love satisfied, and love satisfied is indifference begun.” — Richardson
“It matters not at all in what way I lay this poker on the floor. But if Bonaparte should say it must be placed in this direction, we must instantly insist upon its being laid in some other one.” — Nelson
“Conservative: a man with an inborn conviction that he is right, without being able to prove it.” — Revd. T. James, 1844
“Lord Normanby, in recklessly opening the Irish gaols, has exchanged the customary attributes of Mercy and Justice: he has made Mercy blind, and Justice weeping.” — Lord Wellesley
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
“Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.” — Alfred North Whitehead
Aphorisms of Lazarus Long, the 2,000-year-old protagonist of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1973 novel Time Enough for Love:
- Always store beer in a dark place.
- Small change can often be found under seat cushions.
- If you don’t like yourself, you can’t like other people.
- It’s amazing how much “mature wisdom” resembles being too tired.
- Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet, you can’t win.
- Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.
- The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
- A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.
- It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
- If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
- Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate — and quickly.
- Cheops Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
- No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.
- Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one. Invoking self-interest gives you more leverage.
- By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man — man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.
- A zygote is a gamete’s way of producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the universe.
And “A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.”
“Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.” — Richard Chenevix Trench
When Bertrand Russell announced his first child, a friend said, “Congratulations, Bertie! Is it a girl or a boy?”
Russell said, “Yes, of course. What else could it be?”
“He who falls in love meets a worse fate than he who leaps from a rock.” — Plautus
(The painting is by Edmund Leighton, 1852–1922. He called it simply Off.)
“The hardest of all adventures to speak of is music, because music has no meaning to speak of. If music could be translated into human speech it would no longer need to exist. Like love, music’s a mystery which, when solved, evaporates.” — Ned Rorem, Music From Inside Out, 1967
“Music has no subject beyond the combinations of notes we hear, for music speaks not only by means of sounds, it speaks nothing but sound.” — Eduard Hanslick
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” — Victor Hugo
But music moves us, and we know not why;
We feel the tears, but cannot trace their source.
Is it the language of some other state,
Born of its memory? For what can wake
The soul’s strong instinct of another world,
— Letitia Elizabeth Landon, The Golden Violet, 1827
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov, Newsweek, Jan. 21, 1980