Standards

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Scribner, 1917 - American essays - 151 pages
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Page 17 - A public like this," he says, "we once had, and we have it no longer. Its limitations were marked, but they emphasized its existence. Its standards were narrow, but it had standards. We had a class, not numerous but fairly defined, corresponding to the class Charles Sumner found in England, distinct from the nobility but possessed in abundance of serious knowledge, high accomplishment, and refined taste, the class, precisely, called by Moliere les honnetes gens.
Page 59 - ... intensive" conviction of the truth that "the body is more than raiment." And as we are to be, above all things, natural and as, except for artists, the female form is the loveliest thing in nature, we not only have the prospect of still further emotional felicity in the immediate future, but may look forward with the gentle altruism of resignation to the increase of mankind's stock of happiness in a remoter hereafter — in the spirit of the French seer, who, on the eve of the Revolution, exclaimed...
Page 150 - Just as the cause of mankind is not that of the men who compose it, which it is the weakness of purely material philanthropy to forget. The idea is not a vague one. And since I have ventured to speak of routine France as more sympathetic than devout, I may note that, so far from being vague, it is an idea which is at the present time being illustrated not only splendidly, supremely, but with that precision which in the world of ideas is a French characteristic. We have before our eyes the demonstration...
Page 84 - Vengeance and beneficence are things that God claims for Himself. His instruments have no consciousness of His purpose; if they imagine they have, it is a pretty sure token that they are not His instruments. The good of others, like our own happiness, is not to be attained by direct effort, but incidentally.
Page 30 - ... flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass — the same hips and haws on the autumn hedgerows — the same redbreasts that we used to call 'God's birds' because they did no harm to the precious crops.
Page 5 - Its friends and foes, exponents and censors, would probably agree that one of its main constituent traits is impatience with established standards of all sorts; but what has not perhaps been as clearly perceived is the extension of this impatience to an inveterate hostility to standards in themselves — at least, as I have just noted, to all explicit and conscious ones. Goethe's idea of "culture conquests" has lost its value, because the new spirit involves a break with, not an evolution of, the...
Page 23 - The Two Cheats," is sure ere long to ask how it is synonymous with " preferable." And in losing its character novelty inevitably of course loses its charm. Nothing is more grotesque than last year's fashions. Fashions having no standards they appear in reminiscence in sharp stereotype, and following them seems stark slavery. Ceasing to be novel they disclose their lack of quality. In fine the passion for novelty blinds its victim to the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic, which is all the...
Page 35 - ... so immature, in one word, compared grade for grade with that of Europe. The contrast is as sensible in a page as in a volume in any confrontation of the two. I know of no English short-story writer of her rank who gives me the positive delight that Miss Edna Ferber does — or did. But why should we play all the time? Why should we bracket O. Henry's immensely clever "expanded anecdotes,
Page 48 - From these however his implicit subscription to standards in his professed exclusive devotion to the principle of taste does definitely distinguish him, and for the purpose of showing this I condense a few felicitous sentences from one of his conferences: "Beauty is secured only by an artificial constraint. Art is always the result of constraint. To believe that the freer it is the higher it rises is to believe that what keeps the kite from mounting is the string. Art aspires to freedom only in morbid...
Page 41 - ... constructed credos. Taste indeed is essentially a matter of tradition. No one originates his own. Of the many instances in which mankind is wiser than any man it is one of the chief. It implies conformity to standards already crystallized from formulae already worked out. In the famous preface of his "Cromwell...

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