Logan Pearsall Smith

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There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.
The truth is that the phenomena of artistic production are still so obscure, so baffling, we are still so far from an accurate scientific and psychological knowledge of their genesis or meaning, that we are forced to accept them as empirical facts; and empirical and non-explanatory names are the names that suit them best.
Don't laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find his own.
The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection, even though it consist in nothing more than the pounding of an old piano, is what alone gives a meaning to our life on this unavailing star.

Logan Pearsall Smith (October 18, 1865March 2, 1946) was an American essayist and critic.

Sourced[edit]

  • The emergence of a new term to describe a certain phenomenon, of a new adjective to designate a certain quality, is always of interest, both linguistically and from the point of view of the history of human thought. That history would be a much simpler matter (and language, too, a much more precise instrument) if new thoughts on their appearance, and new facts at their discovery, could at once be analysed and explained and named with scientific precision. But even in science this seldom happens; we find rather that a whole complex group of facts, like those for instance of gas or electricity, are at first somewhat vaguely noticed, and are given, more or less by chance, a name like that of gas, which is an arbitrary formation, or that of electricity, which is derived from the attractive power of electrum or amber when rubbed — the first electric phenomenon to be noticed.
  • The truth is that the phenomena of artistic production are still so obscure, so baffling, we are still so far from an accurate scientific and psychological knowledge of their genesis or meaning, that we are forced to accept them as empirical facts; and empirical and non-explanatory names are the names that suit them best. The complete explanation of any fact is the very last step in human thought; and it is reached, as I have said, if indeed it is ever reached, by the preliminary processes of recognition, designation, and definition. It is with these preliminary processes that our aesthetic criticism is still occupied.
    • "Four Romantic Words" in Words and Idioms : Studies in the English Language (1925), § VI

Afterthoughts (1931)[edit]

  • The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood.
    • Age and Death
  • Don't laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find his own.
    • Age and Death
  • I cannot forgive my friends for dying; I do not find these vanishing acts of theirs at all amusing.
    • Age and Death
  • What music is more enchanting than the voices of young people, when you can't hear what they say?
    • Age and Death
  • The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.
    • Art and Letters
  • The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work on the proceeds, is the most familiar of all the devil's traps for artists.
    • Art and Letters
  • It is the wretchedness of being rich that you have to live with rich people.
    • In the World
  • To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober.
    • In the World
  • How many of our daydreams would darken into nightmares if there seemed any danger of their coming true!
    • Life and Human Nature
  • There are few sorrows, however poignant, in which a good income is of no avail.
    • Life and Human Nature
  • There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.
    • Life and Human Nature
  • The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection, even though it consist in nothing more than the pounding of an old piano, is what alone gives a meaning to our life on this unavailing star.
    • Life and Human Nature
  • People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.
    • Myself
  • How can they say my life is not a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten?
    • Myself
  • All Reformers, however strict their social conscience, live in houses just as big as they can pay for.
    • Other People
  • Most people sell their souls, and live with a good conscience on the proceeds.
    • Other People
  • When they come downstairs from their Ivory Towers, Idealists are very apt to walk straight into the gutter.
    • Other People

All Trivia: Trivia, More Trivia, Afterthoughts, Last Words (1933)[edit]

  • Thank heavens, the sun has gone in, and I don't have to go out and enjoy it.
    • "Last words" — these are not actually Smith's last words, but a section title)

External links[edit]

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