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   Chapter 5 No.5

On the Art of Writing / Lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge 1913-1914 By Arthur Quiller-Couch Characters: 1979

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Gentlemen, you may be thinking that I have brought you a long way round, that the hour is wearing late, and that we are yet far from the prey we first hunted on the line of common-sense. But be patient for a minute or two, for almost we have our hand on the animal.

If the Kingdom of God, or anything correspondent to it, be within us, even in such specks of dust as we separately are, why that, and that only, can be the light by which you or I may hope to read the Universal: that, and that only, deserves the name of 'What Is.' Nay, I can convince you in a moment. Let me recall a passage of Emerson quoted by me on the morning I first had the honour to address an audience in Cambridge:

It is remarkable (says he) that involuntarily we always read as superior beings. Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not in their stateliest pictures … anywhere make us feel that we intrude, that this is for better men; but rather is it true that in their grandest strokes we feel

most at home. All that Shakespeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy that reads in the corner feels to be true of himself.

It is remarkable, as Emerson says; and yet, as we now see, quite simple. A learned man may patronise a less learned one: but the Kingdom of God cannot patronise the Kingdom of God, the larger the smaller. There are large and small. Between these two mysteries of a harmonious universe and the inward soul are granted to live among us certain men whose minds and souls throw out filaments more delicate than ours, vibrating to far messages which they bring home, to report them to us; and these men we call prophets, poets, masters, great artists, and when they write it, we call their report literature. But it is by the spark in us that we read it: and not all the fire of God that was in Shakespeare can dare to patronise the little spark in me. If it did, I can see-with Blake-the angelic host

throw down their spears And water heaven with their tears.

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