Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Indian Jugglers by William Hazlitt (part 1)


Why anyone would spend their good money on a Fine Arts post graduate degree in Creative Writing when they have Table Talk by Hazlitt to read is clear to me. It’s the belief in instruction by osmosis or the sense that being in the presence of a master practitioner will cause a spark to jump. Also there is the corrective adjustment of your story offal that brings out the delightful oddity of your vision. Hazlitt describe the relationship between what can be taught and learned and what is true art:

You can put a child apprentice to a tumbler or rope-dancer with a comfortable prospect of success, if they are but sound of wind and limb; but you cannot do the same thing in painting. The odds are a million to one. You may make indeed as many Haydons and H——s as you put into that sort of machine, but not one Reynolds amongst them all, with his grace, his grandeur, his blandness of gusto, ‘in tones and gestures hit,’ unless you could make the man over again. To snatch this grace beyond the reach of art is then the height of art — where fine art begins, and where mechanical skill ends. The soft suffusion of the soul, the speechless breathing eloquence, the looks ‘commercing with the skies,’ the ever-shifting forms of an eternal principle, that which is seen but for a moment, but dwells in the heart always, and is only seized as it passes by strong and secret sympathy, must be taught by nature and genius, not by rules or study. It is suggested by feeling, not by laborious microscopic inspection; in seeking for it without, we lose the harmonious clue to it within; and in aiming to grasp the substance, we let the very spirit of art evaporate.

Calling those writing courses fine art degrees is a sad irony; not that Hazlitt in his need for folding green energy would not have set up a school and given good value. Eschew double negatives as tending to induce a state of bafflement would be a tenet of his I don’t doubt. What else might I fail to learn from him besides the sweet irascibility of which I am an apt student. The Lucknow boys will have learned that Hazlitt could revise and eliminate cf:Immortality, 2 versions the bum note. In the case of The Indian Jugglers it would be hard to find any. What of the caudal obituary for John Kavanaugh? Is it there to fill up the quire? If you have ever played a sport or practised a craft seriously you will know that beyond the mechanical skill there is pure effortless flow. We know that it’s art but we don’t like to say so in case it might be thought that another locker room is needed.

It’s a very fine day here and there is a lot to do in the garden. I will get back to a consideration of The Indian Jugglers this evening.
((Rule No.1: Write to please yourself))


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