Sunday, August 3, 2014

Amiel on aging (not Melville)

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881)
Image Credit: Charles Linsmayer
From the Journal intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel:
To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living. --Swiss philosopher, poet and critic Henri-Frédéric Amiel
Some quote collectors like Brainy Quote, Best Quotes of the Day and others now want to give Herman Melville the credit for Amiel's thoughts on aging.

This is how fast it happens. Friday's terrific birthday tribute by Cynthia Haven produces the lines from Amiel, only mis-attributed to Melville by way of another birthday greeting by Frank Wilson at Books, Inq. Still, lucky for me to accidentally find these two delightful book blogs. Had I not been looking for Melville on growing old as "the master-work of wisdom," I would have missed the fine review of Moby-Dick Rehearsed at Stanford.

Batting .800: only two of Amanda Patterson's top ten Herman Melville quotes are not by Melville.

The subject of aging reminds me of something in Melville's copy of The Eve of St Agnes, just added at Melville's Marginalia Online. Well it's more about not aging. On the theme of dying young, like Keats, Melville quotes Ernest Renan on Jesus:
"To appear for a moment, to reflect
a soft and profound refulgence, to
to die very young—this is the life
of a god." --Ernest Renan in Saint Paul, as quoted by Herman Melville
In his Keats Melville left out the next sentence, and Renan's application of the point to Saint Paul: "To struggle, dispute, and conquer, is the life of a man."

Great to have the Keats volume with Melville's inscription on the shelf now at Melville's Marginalia Online.

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