The Arousing of Thought – p7

Speaking frankly, I inwardly personally discern the center of my confession not in my lack of knowledge of all the rules and procedures of writers, but in my non-possession of what I have called the “bon ton literary language,” infallibly required in contemporary life not only from writers but also from every ordinary mortal.

As regards the former, that is to say, my lack of knowledge of the different rules and procedures of writers, I am not greatly disturbed.

And I am not greatly disturbed on this account, because such “ignorance” has already now become in the life of people also in the order of things. Such a blessing arose and now flourishes everywhere on Earth thanks to that extraordinary new disease of which for the last twenty to thirty years, for some reason or other, especially the majority of those persons from among all the three sexes fall ill, who sleep with half-open eyes and whose faces are in every respect fertile soil for the growth of every kind of pimple.

This strange disease is manifested by this, that if the invalid is somewhat literate and his rent is paid for three months in advance, he (she or it) unfailingly begins to write either some “instructive article” or a whole book.

Well knowing about this new human disease and its epidemical spread on Earth, I, as you should understand, have the right to assume that you have acquired, as the learned “medicos” would say, “immunity” to it, and that you will therefore not be palpably indignant at my ignorance of the rules and procedures of writers.

This understanding of mine bids me inwardly to make the center of gravity of my warning my ignorance of the literary language.


I particularly warn you about the latter, namely, what I have called the “literary-language-of-the-intelligentsia.”

Concerning this language it must be said that although I too was taught it in my childhood, and some of my elders who were preparing me for responsible life even constantly compelled me to “learn-by-rote” the multitude of various nuances which compose this “contemporary delight,” yet unfortunately—in this case obviously for you—nothing of all I then learnt by rote stuck, and nothing now survives for my writing activities.

And according to the very minute investigations and elucidations of a meteorologist very well known at the present time on the continent of Europe, with whom I chanced to become what is called “bosom-friends” owing to frequent meetings in the nocturnal restaurants of Montmartre, it was not assimilated for the reason that even in my childhood my instinct already contained a certain, as he defined it, “something” which did not permit my Being to absorb this contemporary high-wisdom, and also because, owing to various fortuitous surrounding conditions of my later life, I neither automatically nor semiconsciously, nor even at times, I confess, on principle, that is to say, consciously, employed that language for intercourse with others.