…she concluded with the wisdom invariably shewn by people who, not being in love themselves, feel that a clever man ought to be unhappy only about such persons as are worth his while; which is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the common bacillus.
The artist’s aim, we saw at the beginning of this book, is to turn his audience into his accomplices. Complicity does not exclude violence — but it must be based on a shared secret.
That will do as well, he said. But first let us take care that we avoid a danger.
Of what nature? I said.
Lest we become misologists, he replied, no worse thing can happen to a man than this. For as there are misanthropists or haters of men, there are also misologists or haters of ideas, and both spring from the same cause, which is ignorance of the world. Misanthropy arises out of the too great confidence of inexperience;—you trust a man and think him altogether true and sound and faithful, and then in a little while he turns out to be false and knavish; and then another and another, and when this has happened several times to a man, especially when it happens among those whom he deems to be his own most trusted and familiar friends, and he has often quarreled with them, he at last hates all men, and believes that no one has any good in him at all.
What is a malefactor? A tie dancing in the moonlight, an epileptic rug, a stairway going up flat on its belly, a dagger on the march since the beginning of the world, a panicky phial of poison, gloved hands in the darkness, a sailor’s blue collar, an open succession, a series of benign and simple gestures, a silent hasp.
In this essay an aphorism is presented, and the essay itself is a commentary on it. Of course, in order to practice this style of reading as an art, one thing is above all essential—something that today has been thoroughly forgotten (and so it will require still more time before my writings are “readable”)— something for which one almost needs to be a cow, at any rate not a modern man— rumination.