Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sir Thomas More on Literary Efforts


This certainly rings true:
To tell you the truth, I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Tastes differ so widely, and some people are so humourless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about literature – many regard it with contempt. Lowbrows find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Highbrows reject everything as vulgar that isn’t a mass of archaisms. Some only like the classics, others only their own works. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humour, others so half-witted that they can’t stand wit. Some are so literal minded that the slightest hint of irony affects them as water affects a sufferer from hydrophobia. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. Then there’s the alcoholic school of critics, who sit in public houses, pronouncing ex cathedra verdicts of condemnation, just as they think fit. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald – so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.
—St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

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