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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

364   The Life of the World to Come

I do not read much.; I look, listen, think and write. My
most intimate friends are men of more insight, quicker wit,
more playful fancy and, in all ways, abler men than I am,
but you will find ten of them for one of me. I note what
they say, think it over, adapt it and give it permanent form.
They throw good things off as sparks; I collect them and
turn them into warmth. But I could not do this if I did not
sometimes throw out a spark or two myself.

Not only would Agamemnon be nothing without the vates
sacer but there are always at least ten good heroes to one
good chronicler, just as there are ten good authors to one good
publisher. Bravery, wit and poetry abound in every village.
Look at Mrs. Boss [the original of Mrs. Jupp in The Way of
All Flesh] and at Joanna Mills [Life and Letters of Dr. Butler, I,
93]. There is not a village of 500 inhabitants in England
but has its Mrs. Quickly and its Tom Jones. These good
people never understand themselves, they go over their own
heads, they speak in unknown tongues to those around them
and the interpreter is the rarer and more important person.
The vales sacer is the middleman of mind.

So rare is he and such spendthrifts are we of good things
that people not only will not note what might well be noted
but they will not even keep what others have noted, if they
are to be at the pains of pigeon-holing it. It is less trouble
to throw a brilliant letter into the fire than to put it into
such form that it can be safely kept, quickly found and easily
read. To this end a letter should be gummed, with the help of
the edgings of stamps if necessary, to a strip, say an inch and
a quarter wide, of stout hand-made paper. Two or three
paper fasteners passed through these strips will bind fifty or
sixty letters together, which, arranged in chronological order,
can be quickly found and comfortably read. But how few will
be at the small weekly trouble of clearing up their corre-
spondence and leaving it in manageable shape! If we keep our
letters at all we throw them higgledy-piggledy into a box and
have done with them ; let some one else arrange them when
the owner is dead. The some one else comes and finds the
fire an easy method of escaping the onus thrown upon him.
So on go letters from Tilbrook, Merian, Marmaduke Lawson*

* There are letters from these people in The Life and Letters of
Dr. Samuel Butler,