Thursday, May 31, 2012

On taking Literature seriously


Street Art Washington D.C.
"I cannot understand the people who take literature seriously; but I can
love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this
book. It is a collection of crude and shapeless papers upon current or
rather flying subjects; and they must be published pretty much as they
stand. They were written, as a rule, at the last moment; they were
handed in the moment before it was too late, and I do not think that our
commonwealth would have been shaken to its foundations if they had been
handed in the moment after. They must go out now, with all their
imperfections on their head, or rather on mine; for their vices are too
vital to be improved with a blue pencil, or with anything I can think
of, except dynamite.

Their chief vice is that so many of them are very serious; because I had
no time to make them flippant. It is so easy to be solemn; it is so hard
to be frivolous. Let any honest reader shut his eyes for a few moments,
and approaching the secret tribunal of his soul, ask himself whether he
would really rather be asked in the next two hours to write the front
page of the  Times, which is full of long leading articles, or the
front page of  Tit-Bits, which is full of short jokes. If the reader
is the fine conscientious fellow I take him for, he will at once reply
that he would rather on the spur of the moment write ten  Times
articles than one  Tit-Bits  joke. Responsibility, a heavy and cautious
responsibility of speech, is the easiest thing in the world; anybody can
do it. That is why so many tired, elderly, and wealthy men go in for
politics. They are responsible, because they have not the strength of
mind left to be irresponsible. It is more dignified to sit still than to
dance the Barn Dance. It is also easier. So in these easy pages I keep
myself on the whole on the level of the  Times: it is only occasionally
that I leap upwards almost to the level of  Tit-Bits."