Monday, 8 July 2019


Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.

Gustav Mahler, who misattributed it to Thomas More.

The important thing is never to let oneself be guided by the opinion of one's contemporaries; to continue steadfastly on one's way without letting oneself be either defeated by failure or diverted by applause.

Gustav Mahler

Life isn't about finding yourself or finding anything, life is about creating yourself.

Bob Dylan (sometimes misattributed to Shaw)

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds; it is something one creates.

Thomas Szasz, "The Second Sin", 1973

I utilise all my spare moments. I've read twenty-seven of the Hundred Best Books. I collect ferns.

Katie in Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson

It was from Handel that I learned that style consists in force of assertion. If you can say a thing with one stroke unanswerably you have style; if not, you are at best a marchand de plaisir; a decorative litterateur, or a musical confectioner, or a painter of fans with cupids and cocottes. Handel has this power. When he sets the words "Fixed in his everlasting seat," the atheist is struck dumb; God is there, fixed in his everlasting seat by Handel, even if you live in an Avenue Paul Bert and despise such superstitions. You may despise what you like, but you cannot contradict Handel. All the sermons of Bossuet could not convince Grimm that God existed. The four bars in which Handel finally affirms "the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," would have struck Grimm into the gutter, as by a thunderbolt. When he tells you that when the Israelites went out of Egypt, "there was not one feeble person in all their tribes," it is utterly useless for you to plead that there must have been at least one case of influenza. Handel will not have it: "There was not one, not one feeble person in all their tribes," and the orchestra repeats it in curt, smashing chords that leave you speechless.

George Bernard Shaw, who began his career as a music critic.


  1. “This world is good enough for me if only I can be good enough for it.”
    William Empson

    “‘I did that,’ says my memory. ‘I could not have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually, the memory yields.”

    Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not
    Ambrose Bierce

  2. William Empson had a good point. Remind me to tell you my William Empson story. Reading Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, as I did, was very hard work.

  3. I consider him Stalin one of the greatest persons in the history of mankind. In the history of Russia he was, in my opinion, even greater than Lenin. Until Stalin's death I was anti-Stalinist, but I always regarded him as a brilliant personality.
    Alexander Zinoviev

    ALEXANDER ZINOVIEV - "The Will' (2006)

    1. Take a brake and watch the Zinoviev video... It is really special.

  4. The great literary critic William Empson went to a cocktail party and met a man who worked at Lloyd's Bank, who asked him if he had heard of T.S. Eliot. Empson admitted it - the man asked him how highly he rated him. Empson said he was the most important poet to have written in English in the 20th century. 'Oh. Eliot used to work for me at the bank. Always wondered if his stuff was any good.'

  5. This is a much more famous and true story, in case you don't know it, Toma. ‘You’re T. S. Eliot,’ said a taxi driver to the famous poet as he stepped into his cab. Eliot asked him how he knew. ‘Ah, I’ve got an eye for a celebrity,’ he replied. ‘Only the other evening I picked up Bertrand Russell, and I said to him, “Well, Lord Russell, what’s it all about?” And, do you know, he couldn’t tell me.’

    1. Texas old boys like to greet each other with:
      "Hey... What do you know?'
      The stock answer being:
      'Nothing much!'

    2. “Well, Lord Toma, what’s it all about?”

      "I have no earthly clue, mah boy..."