Tuesday, September 10, 2013

from "Table Talk" (1833) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Shakespeare one sentence begets the next naturally; the meaning is all interwoven. He goes on kindling like a meteor through the dark atmosphere; yet, when the creation in its outline is once perfect, then he seems to rest from his labour, and to smile upon his work, and tell himself that it is very good. You see many scenes and parts of scenes which are simply Shakespeare's disporting himself in joyous triumph and vigorous fun after a great achievement of his highest genius.

from "The Temple of Delight: John Keats and Jack Wiler" (2013) by Teresa Carson

Soul-level influence is not a simple pass-the-baton process; we do not read our poetic ancestors and then just pick up the conversation where they left off. Rather, we are, by nature, related to particular poetic ancestors but not to others. As J. D. Salinger said, “The true poet has no choice of material.” We and our influences cannot help but work the same vein of the Underneath, however dissimilar our surfaces may appear. If we are persistent, honest, and loyal to that vein, then we participate in and continue the conversation of poetry—a conversation that transcends time, place, and style.

from Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the water-side pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigs of great ships; fog drooping in the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice-boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

from "Edwin Drood" by V. S. Pritchett

What Dickens really contributed may be seen by a glance at the only novelists who have seriously developed his contribution--in Dostoevsky above all and, to a lesser degree, in Gogol. (There is more of Dickens, to my mind, in James Joyce's Ulysses than in books like Kipps or Tono Bungay [both by H. G. Wells].) For the distinguishing quality of Dickens's people is that they are solitaries. They are people caught living in a world of their own. They soliloquise in it. They do not talk to one another; they talk to themselves. The pressure of society has created fits of twitching in mind and speech, and fantasies in the soul. It has been said that Dickens creates merely external caricatures, but . . . in how many of that famous congress of "characters"--Micawber, Barkis, Moddles, Jingle, Mrs. Gamp or Miss Twitterton: take them at random--and in how many of the straight personages, like Jasper and Neville Landless in Edwin Drood, are we chiefly made aware of the individual's obliviousness of any existence but his own? The whole of Dickens's emotional radicalism, his hatred of the utilitarians and philanthropists and all his attacks on institutions, are based on his strongest and fiercest sense: isolation. In every kind of way Dickens was isolated. Isolation was the foundation of his fantasy and his hysteria, but also . . . of the twin strains of rebel and criminal in his nature. The solitariness of people is paralleled by the solitariness of things. Fog operates as a separate presence, houses quietly rot or boisterously prosper on their own. . . . The people and things of Dickens are all out of touch and out of hearing of each other, each conducting its own inner monologue, grandiloquent or dismaying.


Richard said...

Juxtaposition is the better part of composure.

Dawn Potter said...

Richard, I love how that sounds. But I can't tell yet if I love what it means.

Richard said...

Your love of how this sentence sounds is the soul determiner of what this sentence means in the context of the Coleridge, Carson, Dickens, Pritchett, and Potter conversation, which I love and cannot appreciate alone.