Monthly Archives: January 2013

Plus ça change

For those who think that the Teenager is a modern invention, there’s this, from Dickens’s Sketches by Boz, 1836, The scene is a box at the theater:

First of all, there came three little boys and a little girl, who, in pursuance of pa’s directions, issued in a very audible voice from the box-door, occupied the front row; then two more little girls were ushered in by a young lady, evidently the governess. Then came three more little boys, dressed like the first, in blue jackets and trousers, with lay-down shirt-collars: then a child in a braided frock, and a high state of astonishment, with very large round eyes, opened to their utmost width, was lifted over the seats – a process which occasioned a considerable display of little pink legs – then came ma and pa, and then the eldest son, a boy of fourteen years old, who was evidently trying to look as if he did not belong to the family.

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…to stay what is fleeting…

From John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, Vol. III (Works, XI, 62).

But what we want art to do for us is to stay what is fleeting, and to enlighten what is incomprehensible, to incorporate the things that have no measure, and immortalize the things that have no duration. The dimly seen, momentary glance, the flitting shadow of faint emotion, the imperfect lines of fading thought, and all that bay and through such things as these is recorded on the features of man, and all that in man’s person and actions, and in the great natural world, is infinite and wonderful; having in it that spirit and power which man may witness, but not weigh; conceive, but not comprehend; love, but not limit; and imagine, but not define; – this , the beginning and the end of the aim of all noble art, we have, in the ancient art, by perception; and we have not, in the newer art, by knowledge. Giotto gives it us; Orcagna gives it us; Angelico, Memmi, Pisano, – it matters not who, – give it us; and the learned men that followed them give it us not, and we, in our supreme learning, own ourselves at this day farther from it than ever.

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