Modern essays from The Times (Magazine) 1915 by J. W. Mackail

Modern essays from The Times (Magazine) 1915 by  J. W. Mackail

Modern essays

No apology is required for the collection of these essays in a more permanent form. Nor perhaps, it may be said, can any necessity for an introduction be claimed. For such an introduction is, in fact, but adding to the one essay more. As Pembroke says to King John: " This once again, but that your highness pleased. Was once superfluous." But to follow a courteous usage need not be regarded as " wasteful and ridiculous excess."

 The type of leading article represented here is a feature not common to many newspapers and is honorable to journalism. For it adds to the scope of journalism and attaches to it a higher, perhaps a not less useful, function. The ordinary leading article deals with public affairs of the moment, or with current incidents and controversies. It gathers up and comments on the news which is the staple content of the newspaper as such. But, like the news of the day, the daily comment on it is transitory and soon for- gotten. One thinks as little of re-reading yesterday's leading article as of re-reading j^esterday's news. 

Today has come, with its fresh news and the fresh reflections made upon it. Both have for the moment a paramount value; they are that for which the newspaper exists, and for which we read it. The is modern Essays news of the day and the daily comment made on it give the necessary information, and help (or are supposed to help) to interpret it to us. Between them, they rouse feeling and suggest action, as well as keeping us in touch with the daily movement of the world; but they do not satisfy the intelligence, nor except indirectly do they enlarge the mind, or lead it to-wards the real realities. 

They may still deal, not indeed with events, but with fashions or tendencies, theories or experiences, of the immediate present. But even with these, they deal in a more detached way, from a wider point of view. Oftener still they are concerned with things that have a more true permanence; with the elements of human nature, the springs of action, the problems of life and conduct, with the effective meaning of art or of science; with the recurrent and perpetual pageant of the visible world. In one or another form, they represent the daily demand and supply of material for thought. Their value, whether great or small, is not for one day only, ceasing vAth. the next. It is right then and reasonable that the more valuable of them should be preserved and collected. 

They are journalism; but in them, journalism is extending itself towards, is even becoming, literature. Such a collection is not in any sense a single work of art; it is hard, except in a purely mechanical sense, a book. It has no structure or continuity. Its parts have no relation beyond the slight element of connexion or contrast which may be given them by skillful arrangement. Nor is it meant to be (if indeed it can be) read continuously, any more than a hymn-book. It is a volume to take up and to lay down on occasion, for pleasure ; and for-profit.

Some contents

The Wisdom of the Ages
The Secret of Success.
The Ordinary Man.
The Cowardice of Youth
On Friendship.
On Understanding Others
On Giving Advice
Moral Indignation.
On Being a Gentleman.
Meanness and Its Motive
Anticipation and Memory
Differences of Taste

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