Cupid, caresses, fire and death (Three notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books)

Caresses, expressions of one sort or another, are necessary to the life of the affections, as leaves are to the life of a tree. If they are wholly restrained, love will die at the roots.

Cupid in these latter times has probably laid aside his bow and arrows, and uses fire-arms,–a pistol,–perhaps a revolver.

I burned great heaps of old letters, and other papers, a little while ago, preparatory to going to England. Among them were hundreds of letters. The world has no more such, and now they are all dust and ashes. What a trustful guardian of secret matters is fire! What should we do without fire and death?

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

 

Just when I was on the point of choking with a huge German word (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry, 11 April 1843)

April 11th.–I meditated accordingly, but without any very wonderful result. Then at eight o’clock bothered myself till after nine with this eternal tale of Tieck. The forenoon was spent in scribbling; but at eleven o’clock my thoughts ceased to flow,–indeed, their current has been wofully interrupted all along,–so I threw down my pen, and set out on the daily journey to the village. Horrible walking! I wasted the customary hour at the Athenæum, and returned home, if home it may now be called. Till dinner-time I labored on Tieck’s tale, and resumed that agreeable employment after the banquet.

Just when I was on the point of choking with a huge German word, Molly announced Mr. Thoreau. He wished to take a row in the boat, for the last time, perhaps, before he leaves Concord. So we emptied the water out of her, and set forth on our voyage. She leaks, but not more than she did in the autumn. We rowed to the foot of the hill which borders the North Branch, and there landed, and climbed the moist and snowy hill-side for the sake of the prospect. Looking down the river, it might well have been mistaken for an arm of the sea, so broad is now its swollen tide; and I could have fancied that, beyond one other headland, the mighty ocean would outspread itself before the eye. On our return we boarded a large cake of ice, which was floating down the river, and were borne by it directly to our own landing-place, with the boat towing behind.

Parting with Mr. Thoreau, I spent half an hour in chopping wood, when Molly informed me that Mr. Emerson wished to see me. He had brought a letter of Ellery Channing, written in a style of very pleasant humor. This being read and discussed, togetherwith a few other matters, he took his leave, since which I have been attending to my journalizing duty; and thus this record is brought down to the present moment.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Incapable of writing even one word (Kafka diary entry, 8 April 1914)

8 April. Yesterday incapable of writing even one word. Today no better. Who will save me? And the turmoil in me, deep down, scarcely visible; I am like a living lattice-work, a lattice that is solidly planted and would like to tumble down.

Today in the coffee-house with Werfel. How he looked from the distance, seated at the coffee-house table. Stooped, half reclining even in the wooden chair, the beautiful profile of his face pressed against his chest, his face almost wheezing in its fullness (not really fat); entirely indifferent to the surroundings, impudent, and without flaw. His dangling glasses by contrast make it easier to trace the delicate outlines of his face.

 

From the diaries of Franz Kafka. The entry is from 8 April 1914. English translation by Martin Greenberg.

Always eat grapes downwards (Samuel Butler)

Always eat grapes downwards—that is, always eat the best grape first; in this way there will be none better left on the bunch, and each grape will seem good down to the last.  If you eat the other way, you will not have a good grape in the lot.  Besides, you will be tempting Providence to kill you before you come to the best.  This is why autumn seems better than spring: in the autumn we are eating our days downwards, in the spring each day still seems “Very bad.”  People should live on this principle more than they do, but they do live on it a good deal; from the age of, say, fifty we eat our days downwards.

In New Zealand for a long time I had to do the washing-up after each meal.  I used to do the knives first, for it might please God to take me before I came to the forks, and then what a sell it would have been to have done the forks rather than the knives!

From Samuel Butler’s Note-Books

Even more beautiful emotions (Kafka’s diary entry, 27 March 1912)

27. March. Monday, on the street. The boy who with several others, threw a large ball at a servant girl walking defencelessly in front of them; just as the ball was flying at the girls’ behind I grabbed him by the throat, choked him in a fury, thrust him aside, and swore. Then walked on and didn’t even look at the girl. One quite forgets one’s earthly existence because one is so entirely full of fury is permitted to believe that, given the opportunity, one would in the same way fill oneself with even more beautiful emotions.

Franz Kafka’s diary entry, 27 March 1912. Translation by Joseph Kresh.

Six Notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

Imitators of original authors might be compared to plaster casts of marble statues, or the imitative book to a cast of the original marble.

 

For a child’s story,–the voyage of a little boat made of a chip, with a birch-bark sail, down a river.

 

Fourier states that, in the progress of the world, the ocean is to lose its saltness, and acquire the taste of a peculiarly flavored lemonade.

 

How pleasant it is to see a human countenance which cannot be insincere,–in reference to baby’s smile.

 

The best of us being unfit to die, what an inexpressible absurdity to put the worst to death!

 

“Is that a burden of sunshine on Apollo’s back?” asked one of the children,–of the chlamys on our Apollo Belvedere.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Happiness comes incidentally (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it; but likely enough it is gone the moment we say to ourselves, “Here it is!” like the chest of gold that treasure-seekers find.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.