"The point is, that the function of the novel seems to be changing; it has become an outpost of journalism; we read novels for information about areas of life we don't know--Nigeria, South Africa, the American army, a coal-mining village, coteries in Chelsea, etc. We read to find out what is going on. One novel in five hundred or a thousand has the quality a novel should have to make it a novel--the quality of philosophy."
"And so she knelt in front of a bookcase, in driving need of the right arrangement of words; for it is a remarkable fact that she was left unmoved by criticisms of the sort of person she was by parents, relations, preachers, teachers, politicians and the people who write for the newspapers; whereas an unsympathetic description of a character similar to her own in a novel would send her into a condition of anxious soul-searching for days. Which suggests that it is of no use for artists to insist, with such nervous disinclination for responsibility, that their productions are only "a divine play" or "a reflection from the creative fires of irony," etc., etc., while the Marthas of this world read and search with the craving thought, What does this say about my life?"
"The true novel wrestles on the edge of understanding, lying about on all sides desperately, for every sort of experience, pressing into use every flash of intuition or correspondence, trying to fuse together the crudest of materials, and the humblest, which the higher arts can't include. But it is precisely here, where the writer fights with the raw, the intractable, that poetry is born. Poetry, that is, of the novel: appropriate to it. The Story of an African Farm is a poetic novel; and when one has done with the "plot" and the characters, that is what remains: an endeavor, a kind of hunger, that passionate desire for growth and understanding, which is the deepest pulse of human beings."
"Now I must write personally; but I would not, if I didn't know that nothing we can say about ourselves is personal. I read the novel when I was fourteen or so; understanding very well the isolation described in it; responding to her sense of Africa the magnificent--mine, and everyone's who knows Africa; realizing that this was one of the few rare books. For it is in that small number of novels, with Moby Dick, Jude the Obscure, Wuthering Heights, perhaps one or two others, which is on a frontier of the human mind."
"The purifying, healing influence of literature, the dissipating of passions by knowledge and the written word, literature as the path to understanding, forgiveness and love, the redeeming might of the word, the literary spirit as the noblest manifestation of the spirit of man, the writer as perfected type, as saint."
"I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. Ineffable socialities are in me. I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome's Pantheon. It is a strange feeling--no hopefulness is in it, no despair. Content--that is it; and irresponsibility; but without licentious inclination."
"The further our civilization advances upon its present lines so much the cheaper sort of thing does "fame" become, especially of the literary sort. This species of "fame" a waggish acquaintance says can be manufactured to order, and sometimes is so manufactured."
"It is not a piece of fine feminine Spitalfields silk--but is of the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables and hausers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it. Warn all gentle fastidious people from so much as peeping into the book--on risk of a lumbago and sciatics."
"It is well known, that the best productions of the best human intellects, are generally regarded by those intellects as mere immature freshman exercises, wholly worthless in themselves, except as initiatives for entering the great University of God after death."
"No common-place is ever effectually got rid of, except by essentially emptying one's self of it into a book; for once trapped in a book, then the book can be put into the fire, and all will be well. But they are not always put into the fire; and this accounts for the vast majority of miserable books over those of positive merit."
"As in digging for precious metals in the mines, much earthy rubbish has first to be troublesomely handled and thrown out; so, in digging in one's soul for the fine gold of genius, much dullness and common-place is first brought to light."
"He did not see that there is no such thing as a standard for the creative spirit; that no one great book must ever be separately regarded, and permitted to domineer with its own uniqueness upon the creative mind; but that all existing great works must be federated in the fancy; and so regarded as a miscellaneous and Pantheistic whole; and then,--without at all dictating to his own mind, or unduly biasing it any way,--thus combined, they would prove simply an exhilarative and provocative to him."
"Nearly all literature, in one sense, is made up of guide-books. Old ones tell us the ways our fathers went, through the thoroughfares and courts of old; but how few of those former places can their posterity trace, amid avenues of modern erections; to how few is the old guide-book now a clew! Every age makes its own guide-books, and the old ones are used for waste paper."