The more clearly you write, the more easily and surely you will be understood.
If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press.’
By all means, let us study the great writers of the past for their own sakes, but let us study them for our guidance: that we, in our turn, having (it is to be hoped) something to say in our span of time, say it worthily, not dwindling out the large utterance of Shakespeare or of Burke.
Portraits of other great ones look down on you in your college halls; but while you are young and sit at the brief feast, what avails their serene gaze if it do not lift up your hearts and movingly persuade you to match your manhood to its inheritance?
Will you tell me, ‘Oh, painting is a special art, whereas anyone can write prose passably well’? Can he, indeed? … Can you, sir? Nay, believe me, you are either an archangel or a very bourgeois gentleman indeed if you admit to having spoken English prose all your life without knowing it.
If you crave for Knowledge, the banquet of Knowledge grows and groans on the board until the finer appetite sickens.
The real tragedy of the Library at Alexandria was not that the incendiaries burned immensely, but that they had neither the leisure nor the taste to discriminate.
The whole business of reading English Literature in two years, to know it in any reputable sense of the word – let alone your learning to write English – is, in short, impossible.
Against Knowledge I have, as the light cynic observed of a certain lady’s past, only one serious objection – that there is so much of it.