Books and Culture eBook

Hamilton Wright Mabie
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 123 pages of information about Books and Culture.
life not possessed before.  The work of the Russian novelists has been, indeed, a new reading in the book of experience; it has made a notable addition to the sum total of humanity’s knowledge of itself.  In the pages of Gogol, Dostoievski, Tourgueneff, and Tolstoi, the majority of readers have found a world absolutely new to them; and in reading those pages, so penetrated with the dramatic spirit, they have come into the possession of a knowledge of life not formal and didactic, but deep, vital, and racial in its range and significance.  To possess the knowledge of an experience at once so remote and so rich in disclosure of character, so charged with tragic interest, is to push back the horizons of our own experience, to secure a real contribution to our own enrichment and development.  Whoever carries that process far enough brings into his individual experience much of the richness and splendour of the experience of the race.

Chapter XV.

Freshness of Feeling.

The primary charm of art resides in the freshness of feeling which it reveals and conveys.  An art which discloses fatigue, weariness, exhaustion of emotion, deadening of interest, has parted with its magical spell; for vitality, emotion, passionate interest in the experiences of life, devout acceptance of the facts of life, are the prime characteristics of art in those moments when its veracity and power are at the highest point.  A great work of art may be tragic in the view of life which it presents, but it must show no sign of the succumbing of the spirit to the appalling facts with which it deals; even in those cases in which, as in the tragedy of “King Lear,” blind fate seems relentlessly sovereign over human affairs, the artist must disclose in his attitude and method a sustained energy of spirit.  Nothing shows so clearly a decline in creative force as a loss of interest on the part of the artist in the subject or material with which he deals.

That fresh bloom which lies on the very face of poetry, and in which not only its obvious but its enduring charm resides, is the expression of a feeling for nature, for life, and for the happenings which make up the common lot, which keeps its earliest receptivity and responsiveness.  When a man ceases to care deeply for things, he ceases to represent or interpret them with insight and power.  The preservation of feeling is, therefore, essential in all artistic work; and when it is lost, the artist becomes an echo or an imitation of his nobler self and work.  It is the beautiful quality of the true art instinct that it constantly sees and feels the familiar world with a kind of childlike directness and delight.  That which has become commonplace to most men is as full of charm and novelty to the artist as if it had just been created.  He sees it with fresh eyes and feels it with a fresh heart.  To such a spirit nothing becomes stale and hackneyed; everything remains

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Books and Culture from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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