Reality: Romance for Grownups

Memoirs, so long as they are true, how stupid soever, can hardly be accumulated in excess. The stupider they are, let them simply be the sooner cast into the oven; if true, they will always instruct more or less, were it only in the way of confirmation and repetition ; and, what is of vast moment, they do not misinstruct. Day after day looking at the high destinies which yet await Literature, which Literature will ere long address herself with more decisiveness than ever to fulfill, it grows clearer to us that the proper task of Literature lies in the domain of BELIEF ; within which ’Poetic Fiction’ as it is charitably named, will have to take a quite new figure, if allowed a settlement there. Whereby were it not reasonable to prophesy that this exceeding great multitude of Novel-writers and suchlike, must, in a new generation, gradually do one of two things: either retire into nurseries, and work for children, minors and semifatuous persons of both sexes ; or else, what were far better, sweep their Novel-fabric into the dust-cart, and betake them with such faculty as they have to understand and record what is true, of which, surely, there is, and will forever be, a whole Infinitude unknown to us, of infinite importance to us! Poetry, it will more and more come to be understood, is nothing but higher Knowledge ; and the only genuine Romance (for grown persons) Reality. The Thinker is the Poet, the Seer; let him who sees write down according to his gift of sight; if deep and with inspired vision, then creatively, poetically; if common, and with only uninspired everyday vision, let him at least be faithful in this and write Memoirs.

Thomas Carlyle, “Diderot,” Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, 1869 (230-231)

Posted by Jeff at August 5, 2007 11:49 AM

August 2007 (1)