Posted in Language

True Wit is Nature to advantage dress’d, What oft was thought but ne ‘er so well express ‘d.

The virtues common to good living and good poetry seem to me not so much matters of what used to be called ‘virtue’as, above all, of sane vitality.

1936  The Decline and Fall of the Romantic Ideal, ch.1.

Living on his feelings the Romantic grows more and more self-centered: the more self-centered he grows, the more he is reduced to living on his own feelings . . . . “The great object of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even though in pain”–that Byronic cry is the keynote of one Romantic career after another. The “pain” was seldom slow to follow. Those who seek such perpetual intoxication, must either vary the stimulant or increase the dose.

In sensationalism an author exploits his readers deliberately attempting to arouse more and more sensual excitement either by whipping to hysteria the feelings they have or by stimulating feelings they do not have. “And so,” writes Lucas,

it became necessary to go on and on from frenzy to frenzy. The novel of horrors, for example, had to plunge from skulls to skeletons, from skeletons to whole cemeteries. The worms of Monk Lewis grow tame beside the refinements of Poe. Similarly love has to become a volcanic eruption.

Yet what sensationalism gains in excitement pales beside what it ultimately loses–an appreciation of the common. When each new experience and each new description has to exceed the old one, then the extraordinary excludes the ordinary and the uncommon, the common. No longer can one revel in the very thing that originally attracted the attention of so many romantics: the beauty of everyday ordinary routine life, especially nature.

 

– Lucas

Author:

"If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive. Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution." I have so much to say to you that I am afraid I shall tell you nothing."

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