Simplicity is not virginal in the modern world.  She has a penitential or a vidual singleness.  We can conceive an antique world in which life, art, and letters were simple because of the absence of many things; for us now they can be simple only because of our rejection of many things. 

We are constrained to such a vigilance as will not let even a master’s work pass unfanned and unpurged.  Even among his phrases one shall be taken and the other left.  For he may unawares have allowed the habitualness that besets this multitudinous life to take the pen from his hand and to write for him a page or a word; and habitualness compels our refusals.  Or he may have allowed the easy impulse of exaggeration to force a sentence which the mere truth, sensitively and powerfully pausing, would well have become.  Exaggeration has played a part of its own in human history.  By depreciating our language it has stimulated change, and has kept the circulating word in exercise.  Our rejection must be alert and expert to overtake exaggeration and arrest it.  It makes us shrewder than we wish to be.  And, indeed, the whole endless action of refusal shortens the life we could desire to live.  Much of our resolution is used up in the repeated mental gesture of adverse decision.  Our tacit and implicit distaste is made explicit, who shall say with what loss to our treasury of quietness?  We are defrauded of our interior ignorance, which should be a place of peace.  We are forced to confess more articulately than befits our convention with ourselves.  We are hurried out of our reluctances.  We are made too much aware.  Nay, more: we are tempted to the outward activity of destruction; reviewing becomes almost inevitable.  As for the spiritual life—O weary, weary act of refusal!  O waste but necessary hours, vigil and wakefulness of fear!  ‘We live by admiration’ only a shortened life who live so much in the iteration of rejection and repulse.  And in the very touch of joy there hides I know not what ultimate denial; if not on one side, on the other.  If joy is given to us without reserve, not so do we give ourselves to joy.  We withhold, we close.  Having denied many things that have approached us, we deny ourselves to many things.  Thus does il gran rifiuto divide and rule our world.

Simplicity is worth the sacrifice; but all is not sacrifice.  Rejection has its pleasures, the more secret the more unmeasured.  When we garnish a house we refuse more furniture, and furniture more various, than might haunt the dreams of decorators.  There is no limit to our rejections.  And the unconsciousness of the decorators is in itself a cause of pleasure to a mind generous, forbearing, and delicate.  When we dress, no fancy may count the things we will none of.  When we write, what hinders that we should refrain from Style past reckoning?  When we marry—.  Moreover, if simplicity is no longer set in a world having the great and beautiful quality of fewness, we can provide an equally fair setting in the quality of refinement.  And refinement is not to be achieved but by rejection.  One who suggests to me that refinement is apt to be a mere negative has offered up a singular blunder in honour of robustiousness.  Refinement is not negative, because it must be compassed by many negations.  It is a thing of price as well as of value; it demands immolations, it exacts experience.  No slight or easy charge, then, is committed to such of us as, having apprehension of these things, fulfil the office of exclusion.  Never before was a time when derogation was always so near, a daily danger, or when the reward of resisting it was so great.  The simplicity of literature, more sensitive, more threatened, and more important than other simplicities, needs a guard of honour, who shall never relax the good will nor lose the good heart of their intolerance.


Support this fine website.

Your donations are greatly appreciated.

Thanks, champ.

Share via
Send this to a friend