If Montaigne is a man in the prime of life sitting in his study on a warm morning and putting down the sum of his experience in his rich, sinewy prose, then Pascal is that same man lying awake in the small hours of the night when death seems very close and every thought is heightened by the apprehension that it may be his last.
Dining out is a vice, a dissipation of spirit punished by remorse. We eat, drink, and talk a little too much, abuse all our friends, belch out our literary preferences and are egged on by accomplices in the audience to acts of mental exhibitionism. Such evenings cannot fail to diminish those who take part in them. They end on Monkey Hill.
Flaubert spoke true: to succeed a great artist must have both character and fanaticism and few in this country are willing to pay the price. Our writers have either no personality and therefore no style or a false personality and therefore a bad style; they mistake prejudice for energy and accept the sensation of material well-being as a system of thought.
I review novels to make money, because it is easier for a sluggard to write an article a fortnight than a book a year, because the writer is soothed by the opiate of action, the crank by posing as a good journalist, and having an air hole. I dislike it. I do it and I am always resolving to give it up.
Young writers if they are to mature require a period of between three and seven years in which to live down their promise. Promise is like the mediaeval hangman who after settling the noose, pushed his victim off the platform and jumped on his back, his weight acting a drop while his jockeying arms prevented the unfortunate from loosening the rope. When he judged him dead he dropped to the ground.
The English masses are lovable: they are kind, decent, tolerant, practical and not stupid. The tragedy is that they are too many of them, and that they are aimless, having outgrown the servile functions for which they were encouraged to multiply. One day these huge crowds will have to seize power because there will be nothing else for them to do, and yet they neither demand power nor are ready to make use of it; they will learn only to be bored in a new way.
Carelessness is not fatal to journalism, nor are cliches, for the eye rests lightly on them. But what is intended to be read once can seldom be read more than once; a journalist has to accept the fact that his work, by its very todayness, is excluded from any share in tomorrow.
Failure on the other hand is infectious. The world is full of charming failures (for all charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others) and unless the writer is quite ruthless with these amiable footlers, they will drag him down with them.