It is indeed immensely picturesque. I can fancy sitting all a summer's day watching its shadows shorten and lengthen again, and drawing a delicious contrast between the world's duration and the feeble span of individual experience. There is something in Stonehenge almost reassuring; and if you are disposed to feel that life is rather a superficial matter, and that we soon get to the bottom of things, the immemorial gray pillars may serve to remind you of the enormous background of time.
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In a play, certainly, the subject is of more importance than in any other work of art. Infelicity, triviality, vagueness of subject, may be outweighed in a poem, a novel, or a picture, by charm of manner, by ingenuity of execution; but in a drama the subject is of the essence of the work-it is the work. If it is feeble, the work can have no force; if it is shapeless, the work must be amorphous.
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The main object of the novel is to represent life. . .The success of a work of art, to my mind, may be measured by the degree to which it produces a certain illusion; that illusion makes it appear to us for the time that we have lived another life - that we have had a miraculous enlargement of experience.
The girl had a certain nobleness of imagination, which rendered her a good many services and played her a great many tricks. She spent half her time in thinking of beauty, bravery, magnanimity; she had a fixed determination to regard the world as a place of brightness, of free expansion, of irresistible action, she thought it would be detestable to be afraid or ashamed. She had an infinite hope that she would never do anything wrong. She had resented so strongly, after discovering them, her mere errors of feeling.
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Life is, in fact, a battle. Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting, but rare; goodness very apt to be weak; folly very apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places, people of sense in small, and mankind generally unhappy. But the world as it stands is no narrow illusion, no phantasm, no evil dream of the night; we wake up to it, forever and ever; and we can neither forget it nor deny it nor dispense with it.
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Every man who has reached even his intellectual teens begins to suspect that life is no farce; that it is not genteel comedy even; that it flowers and fructifies on the contrary out of the profoundest tragic depths of the essential dearth in which its subject's roots are plunged. The natural inheritance of everyone who is capable of spiritual life is an unsubdued forest where the wolf howls and the obscene bird of night chatters.
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Night came on, the lamps were lighted, the tables near him found occupants, and Paris began to wear that peculiar evening look of hers which seems to say, in the flare of windows and theatre-doors, and the muffled rumble of swift-rolling carriages, that this is no world for you unless you have your pockets lined and your scruples drugged.
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However, Nick acted as much as possible under the circumstances, and that was rectifying - it brought with it enjoyment and a working faith. He had not gone counter to the axiom that in a case of doubt one was to hold off; for that applied to choice, and he had not at present the slightest pretension to choosing. He knew he was lifted along, that what he was doing was not first-rate, that nothing was settled by it and that if there was essentially a problem in his life it would only grow tougher with keeping. But if doing one's sum to-morrow instead of to-day does not make the sum easier it at least makes to-day so.
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He was an awkward mixture of strong moral impulse and restless aesthetic curiosity, and yet he would have made a most ineffective reformer and a very indifferent artist. It seemed to him that the glow of happiness must be found either in action, of some immensely solid kind, on behalf of an idea, or in producing a masterpiece in one of the arts.
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It had belonged to that idea of the exasperated consciousness of his victim to become a real test for him; since he had quite put it to himself from the first that, oh distinctly! he could "cultivate" his whole perception. He had felt it as above all open to cultivation-which indeed was but another name for his manner of spending his time. He was bringing it on, bringing it to perfection, by practice; in consequence of which it had grown so fine that he was now aware of impressions, attestations of his general postulate, that couldn't have broken upon him at once.
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I know at least what I am, ' he simply went on; 'the other side of the medal's clear enough. I've not been edifying-I believe I'm thought in a hundred quarters to have been barely decent. I've followed strange paths and worshipped strange gods; it must have come to you again and again-in fact you've admitted to me as much-that I was leading, at any time these thirty years, a selfish frivolous scandalous life. And you see what it has made of me.
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The image of the "presence, " whatever it was, waiting there for him to go-this image had not yet been so concrete for his nerves as when he stopped short of the point at which certainty would have come to him. For, with all his resolution, or more exactly with all his dread, he did stop short-he hung back from really seeing. The risk was too great and his fear too definite: it took at this moment an awful specific form.
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