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that which has real value, and to regret oneself, is to furnish involuntary evidence that one had attached importance to oneself. At the same time it is a proof of ignorance of our true worth and function. It is not necessary to live, but it is necessary to preserve one's type unharmed, to remain faithful to one's idea, to protect one's monad against alteration and degradation.
7th November 1878. — To-day we have been talking of realism in painting, and, in connection with it, of that poetical and artistic illusion which does not aim at being confounded with reality itself. Realism wishes to entrap sensation ; the object of true art is only to charm the imagination, not to deceive the eye. When we see a good portrait we say, “It is alive!' – in other words, our imagination lends it life. On the other hand, a wax figure produces a sort of terror in us; its frozen lifelikeness makes a deathlike impression on us, and we say, 'It is a ghost!' In the one case we see what is lacking, and demand it; in the other we see what is given us, and we give on our side. Art, then, addresses itself to the imagination; everything that appeals to sensation only is below art, almost outside art. A work of art ought to set the poetical faculty in us to work, it ought to stir us to imagine, to complete our perception of a thing. And we can only do this when the artist leads the way Mere copyist's painting, realistic reproduction, pure imitation, leave us cold because their author is a machine, a mirror, an iodised plate, and not a soul.
Art lives by appearances, but these appearances are spiritual visions, fixed dreams. Poetry represents to us nature become con. substantial with the soul, because in it nature is only a reminiscence touched with emotion, an image vibrating with our own life, a form without weight, in short, a mode of the soul. The poetry which is most real and objective is the expression of a soul which throws itself into things, and forgets itself in their presence more readily than others; but still, it is the expression of a soul, and hence what we call style. Style may be only collective, hieratic, national, so long as the artist is still the interpreter of the community ; it tends to become personal in proportion as society makes room for individuality and favours its expansion.
There is a way of killing truth by truths. Under the pretence that we want to study it more in detail we pulverise the statue it is an absurdity of which our pedantry is constantly guilty. Those who can only see the fragments of a thing are to me esprits faux, just as much as those who disfigure the fragments. The good critic ought to be master of the three capacities, the three modes of seeing men and things — he should be able simultaneously to see them as they are, as they might be, and as they ought to be.
Modern culture is delicate electuary made up of varied savours and subtle colours, which can be more easily felt than measured or defined. Its very superiority consists in the complexity, the association of contraries, the skilful combination it implies. The man of to-day, fashioned by the historical and geographical influences of twenty countries and of thirty centuries, trained and modified by all the sciences and all the arts, the supple recipient of all literatures, is an entirely new product. He finds affinities, relationships, analogies everywhere, but at the same time he condenses and sums up what is elsewhere scattered. He is like the smile of La Gioconda, which seems to reveal a soul to the spectator only to leave him the more certainly under a final impression of mystery, so many different things are expressed in it at once.
To understand things we must have been once in them and then have come out of them; so that first there must be captivity and then deliverance, illusion followed by disillusion, enthusiasm by disappointment. He who is still under the spell, and he who has never felt the spell, are equally incompetent. We only know well what we have first believed, then judged. To understand we must be free, yet not have been always free. The same truth holds, whether it is a question of love, of art, of religion, or of patriotism. Sympathy is a first condition of criticism; reason and justice presuppose, at their origin, emotion.
What is an intelligent man ? A man who enters with ease and completeness into the spirit of things and the intention of persons, and who arrives at an end by the shortest route. Lucidity and suppleness of thought, critical delicacy and inventive resource, these are his attributes.
Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more.
3d January 1879. — Letter from This kind friend of mine has no pity. I have been trying to quiet his over-delicate susceptibilities. . . . It is difficult to write perfectly easy letters when one finds them studied with a magnifying glass, and treated like monumental inscriptions, in which each character has been deliberately engraved with a view to an eternity of life. Such disproportion between the word and its commentary, between the playfulness of the writer and the analytical temper of the reader, is not favourable to ease of style. One dares not be one's natural self with these serious folk who attach importance to everything ; it is difficult to write openheartedly if one must weigh every phrase and every word.
Esprit means taking things in the sense which they are meant to have, entering into the tone of other people, being able to place oneself on the required level ; esprit is that just and accurate sense which divines, appreciates, and weighs quickly, lightly, and