Morning Read
“Do Something All Day Long”


¶ Casting about for a metaphor with which to describe Lord Chesterfield’s Weltanschauung — an anachronistic inquiry, I know — I keep coming back to opera seria, although I’m quite sure that Chesterfield would have detested the insolence of my conceit. We have heard, in recent letters, of the earl’s contempt for trivialities, and yet he finds in “company,” the most exalted human activity.

I cannot help being anxious for your success, at this your first appearance upon the great stage of the world; for though the spectators are always candid enough to give great allowances, and show great indulgence to a new actor; yet, from the first impressions which he makes upon them, they are apt to decide, in their own minds at least, whether he will ever be a good one, or not…

There is also a touching exhortation to keep busy that’s worth noting.

Do what you will in Berlin, provided you do but do something all day long. … If I did not know by experience, that some men pass their whole time in doing nothing, I should not think it possible for any being, superior to M Descartes’s automatons, to squander away, in absolute idleness, one single minute of that small portion of time which is allotted us in this world.

If youth knew, and age could…

¶ In Moby-Dick, more phrenology.

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in the creature’s living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his true brain, you can then see no indication of it, nor feel any. The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world.

Melville’s genius for spouting aphorisms to which one’s response is the very opposite of “So true!” is unparalleled.

¶ Don Quixote meets the Knight of the Wood, who is scandalized that Sancho dares to “speak when his master is speaking.” Is he as big a lunatic as our hero? I suspect that we’re in for a bit of aristo-pricking.

¶ In Squillions, Noël Coward discovers Jamaica, and it is love at first sight.

I really think that as a race we [English] must be dotty. Here is this divine place — one of the oldes British colonies and we none of us — thank God — know anything about it. That is except me and Nelson.

Little can Coward have foreseen that his divine place would be boycotted as an egregiously homophobic tourist destination. His was quite another world.

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