On Being in Fact a Little Careless, or Rather Seeming to be

An 1875 notebook entry by Thomas Hardy, today's guest blogger --

“Read again Addison, Macaulay, Newman, Sterne, Defoe, Lamb, Gibbon, Burke, “Times” leaders etc., in a study of style. Am more and more confirmed in an idea I have long held, as a matter of common sense, long before I thought of any old aphorism bearing on the subject: 'Ars est celare artem.' The whole secret of a living style and the difference between it and a dead style, lies in not having too much style – being in fact a little careless, or rather seeming to be, here and there. It brings wonderful life into the writing:

A sweet disorder in the dress...
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility,
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

Otherwise your style is like worn half-pence – all the fresh images rounded off by rubbing, and no crispness at all.”

Leonard Michaels said this when he was interviewed by “Paris Review” --

“Scholarship can infest writing – especially fiction – with a kind of self-satisfied modesty that comes out of the life itself, and with a propriety that gives a precious little smack to every single word. The writer who lives too deep in academe may think he makes a perfect choice, word by word, but it can be a perfection disgusting to normal readers.”

2 thoughts on “On Being in Fact a Little Careless, or Rather Seeming to be”

  1. That no sentence in a book contains a cliché does not ensure that the book itself says anything original.

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