And again, what gleaming single phrases, whole counsels of existence in a dozen words! He must copy out some of them for Esther. This, for example: “Not pleasure, but fulness, completeness of life generally,” or this: “To be able to make use of the flower when the fruit, perhaps, was useless or poisonous” or again this: “To be absolutely virgin towards a direct and concrete experience”—and there were a hundred more.
Then for the young craftsman what an insight into, what a compassionate, childish remembrance of the moods and the little foolish accidents of creation: “His dilettanteism, his assiduous preoccupation with what might seem but the details of mere form or manner, was, after all, bent upon the function of bringing to the surface, sincerely and in their integrity, certain strong personal intuitions, certain visions or apprehensions of things as being, with important results, in this way rather than that—apprehensions which the artistic or literary expression was called upon to follow, with the exactness of wax or clay, clothing the model within it. Flavian, too, with his fine, clear mastery of the practically effective, had early laid hold of the principle, as axiomatic in literature: That ’to know when one’s self is interested, is the first condition of interesting other people’" And once more: “As it oftenest happens also, with natures of genuinely poetic quality, those piecemeal beginnings came suddenly to harmonious completeness among the fortunate incidents, the physical heat and light, of one singularly happy day.”
And, over all, what a beauty! a beauty at once so sensuous and so spiritual—the beauty of flowering laurel, the beauty of austerity aflower. Here the very senses prayed. Surely this was the most beautiful prose book ever written! It had been compared, he saw, with Gautier’s “Mademoiselle de Maupin;” but was not the beauty of that masterpiece, in comparison with the beauty of this, as the beauty of a leopard-skin to the beauty of a statue of Minerva, withdrawn in a grove of ilex.
Still Ned delayed, and, meanwhile, the third glass of port had come and gone, and at length, reluctantly, Henry emerged from his tavern-cloister upon the warm brilliancy of the streets. All around him the lights beaconed, and the women called with bright eyes. But to-night there was no temptation for him in these things. They but recalled another exquisite quotation from his new-found treasure, which he stopped under a lamp to fix in his memory: “And, as the fresh, rich evening came on, there was heard all over Rome, far above a whisper, the whole town seeming hushed to catch it distinctly, the living, reckless call to ‘play,’ from the sons and daughters of foolishness to those in whom their life was still green—Donec virenti canities abest! Donec virenti canities abest! Marius could hardly doubt how Cornelius would have taken the call. And as for himself, slight as was the burden of positive moral obligation with which he had entered Rome, it was to no wasteful and vagrant affections, such as these, that his Epicureanism had committed him.”