Cover of book Impressions
Categories: Fiction » Literature

IMPRESSIONS -- Pierre Loti - MAY as well admit at the outset that in speaking of Pierre Loti I give way to an inclination of the irresistible sort, express indeed a lively obligation. I am conscious o


f owing him that amount and that kind of pleasure as to which hesitation resides only in the difficulty of statement. He has been for me, from the hour of my making his - ac-quaintance, one of the joys of the time, and the fact moreover of his being of the time has often, to my eyes, made it seem to suffer less from the presence of writers less delightful yet more acclaimed. It is a part of the joy I speak of that, having once for all, at the beginning, caused the critical sense thoroughly to vibrate, he has ever since then let it alone, brought about in my mind a state of acceptance, a state of gratitude, in which I have been content not to discriminate. Critically, on first knowing him, I surrendered-for it has always seemed to me that the inner chamber of taste opens only to that key but, the surrender being complete-the chamber never again closed-I feel that, like King Amasis with the ring, I have thrown the key into the deep. He is extremely unequal and extremely imperfect. He is familiar with both ends of the scale of taste. I am not sure even that on the whole his talent has gained with experience as much as was to have been expected, that his earlier years have not been those in which he was most to endear himself. But these things have made little difference to a reader so committed to an affection. It has been a very simple case. At night all cats are grey, and I have liked him so much in general that there has always been a perch, a margin left when the special case has for the moment cut away a little of the ground. The love of letters renders us no greater service-certainly opens to us no greater satisfaction-than in putting us from time to time under some such charm. There need never be a fear, I think, of its doing so too often. When the charm, in such a manner, fixes itself, what has happened is that the effect, the operative gift, has become to us simply a value, and that an experience more or less bitter has taught us never, in literature, to sacrifice any value we may have been fortunate enough to light upon. Such discoveries are too happy, such values too great. They do for us what nothing else does. There are other charms and other surrenders, but those have their action in another air. What the mind feels in any form of magic is a particular extension of the contac with life, and no two forms give us exactly the same. Every artist who really touches us becomes in this way an individual instrument, the fiddler, the improviser of an original tune. The inspiration may sometimes fail, the notes sound weak or false but to break, on that account, the fiddle across ones knee is surely-given, as we look about the much-mixed field, the other cc values -a strange aesthetic economy. I read and relish him whenever he appears, but his earlier things are those to which I most return. It took some time, in those years, quite to make him out-he was so stranpe a mixture for readers of our tradition. He V , was a sailor-man and yet a poet, a poet and yet a sailorman. To a ma ked division of these functions we had always been accustomed, looking as little for sensibility in the seaman as perhaps for seamanship in the man of emotion. So far as we were at all conscious of the uses of sensibility it was not to the British or the American tar that we were in the habit of applying for it...

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