Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

278     Material for a Projected Sequel

angry. This tendency of our nature culminates in the well-
known lines repeated for ever and ever:

The battle of the Nile
I was there all the while;
I was there all the while
At the battle of the Nile.
The battle of ...

And so on ad lib. Even this will please very young children.
As they grow older they want to hear about nothing but " The
Three Bears." As they mature still further they want the
greater invention and freer play of fancy manifested by such
people as Homer and our west-end upholsterers, beyond which
there is no liberty, but only eccentricity and extravagance.

So it is with all fashion. Fashions change, but not radically
except after convulsion and, even then, the change is more
apparent than real, the older fashions continually coming back
as new ones.

So it is not only as regards choice of subject but also as
regards treatment of subject within the limits of the work
itself, after the subject is chosen. No matter whether the
utterance of a man's inner mind is attempted by way of words,
painting, or music, the same principle underlies all these three
arts and, of course, also those arts that are akin to them. In
each case a man should have but one subject easily recognisable
as the main motive, and in each case he must develop, treat
and illustrate this by means of episodes and details that are
neither so alien to the subject as to appear lugged in by the
heels, nor yet so germane to it as to be identical. The treat-
ment grows out of the subject as the family from the parents
and the race from the family—each new-born member being
the same and yet not the same with those that have preceded
him. So it is with all the arts and all the sciences—they
flourish best by the addition of but little new at a time in
comparison with the old.

And so, lastly, it is with the ars artium itself, that art of arts
and science of sciences, that guild of arts and crafts which is
comprised within each one of us, I mean our bodies. In the
detail they are nourished from day to day by food which must
not be too alien from past food or from the body itself, nor yet
too germane to either; and in the gross, that is to say, in the