Distribution Automatique

Monday, June 14

"The diffusion of knowledge and literature,
by increasing the number of pretenders, has
lessened the distance between authors and
readers; has made learning common and familiar;
and given to reputation a temporary and ephemeral
character. In the succession of new works,
we cannot find time to read the old:- in the
crowd of living competitors, we lose sight
of the dead. The pretensions of rank and
literature being each set aside and neutralized
by the impertinent scrutiny of vulgar opinion,
they *club* their stock between them, and strive
to make a feeble stand that way. Hence the
aristocracy of letters! An author no longer,
in the silence of retreat, and in the dearth
of criticism, appeals to posterity as a last
resource, as in a flat and barren country we look
on objects in the distant horizon; in the din
and pressure of present opinions and contending
claims, he must throw himself like an actor
at a fair, on the gaping throng about him, and
seize, by the most speedy and obvious means, the
noisy suffrages of his contemporaries. The poet,
as of old, is not now, from rarity, regarded as
a mystery, a wizard, a something whose privacy is
not to be profaned by being encroached upon;
every effort is made to throw down this partition
wall, to rend asunder the veil of genius; and
instead of being kept at a studious and awful
distance, he must be brought near, must be shown
as a *lion*, must be had out to dinner, or to an
AT HOME; we must procure his autograph, get him
to write his name in an *album*, and, if possible,
come into personal contant with him, so as to mix
him up with our daily impressions and admiring
egotism. Thus the imaginary notion, the *divine
particula aura*, is lost under a heap of common
qualities or peculiar defects; and only the shadow
of a name is left. Nothing is fine but the *ideal*;
or rather, excellence exists only in abstraction.
If we wish to be delighted or to admire, we have no
business to seek beyond what first excited our
delight and admiration. Those who go in search of a
cluster of perfections, or expect that because a
man is superior in one thing, he is superior in all,
only go in search of disappointment; or, in truth,
hope to indemnify their self-love by the discovery
that, except in some one particular, their idol is
very much like themselves."

William Hazlitt
"The Prose Album: Maxims on Mankind"
*Monthly Magazine*
July, 1839