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And the robustious fellow who sits at the head of the table when the Jolly Swillers meet at the Blue Lion on Wednesday evenings is a great politician, sound of lung metal, and wields the village in the taproom, as my Lord Palmerston wields the nation in the House. White took note of the ongoings of the seasons in and around Hampshire Selborne, watched the colonies of the rooks in the tall elms, looked after the swallows in the cottage and rectory eaves, played the affectionate spy on the private lives of chaffinch and hedge-sparrow, was eaves-dropper to the solitary cuckoo; so here I keep eye and ear open; take note of man, woman, and child; find many a pregnant text imbedded in the commonplace of village life; and, out of what I see and hear, weave in my own room my essays as solitary as the spider weaves his web in the darkened corner.His listeners think him a wiser personage than the Premier, and he is inclined to lean to that opinion himself. The essay, as a literary form, resembles the lyric, in so far as it is moulded by some central mood—whimsical, serious, or satirical.
The essay should be pure literature as the poem is pure literature.
The essayist wears a lance, but he cares more for the sharpness of its point than for the pennon that flutters on it, than for the banner of the captain under whom he serves.
I have already described my environments and my mode of life, and out of both I contrive to extract a very tolerable amount of satisfaction.
Love in a cottage, with a broken window to let in the rain, is not my idea of comfort; no more is Dignity, walking forth richly clad, to whom every head uncovers, every knee grows supple.
I find everything here that other men find in the big world. Give the mood, and the essay, from the first sentence to the last, grows around it as the cocoon grows around the silkworm.
The essay-writer is a chartered libertine, and a law unto himself.
The coarse rich man rates his domestic, but there is a thought in the domestic’s brain, docile and respectful as he looks, which makes the matter equal, which would madden the rich man if he knew it—make him wince as with a shrewdest twinge of hereditary gout.
For insult and degradation are not without their peculiar solaces.
It is not the essayist’s duty to inform, to build pathways through metaphysical morasses, to cancel abuses, any more than it is the duty of the poet to do these things.
Incidentally he may do something in that way, just as the poet may, but it is not his duty, and should not be expected of him.