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A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.

A general statement is valuable only in REFERENCE to the known objects or facts.

Literature is language charged with meaning. Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.

Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.

Your language is in the care of your writers.

A people that grows accustomed to sloppy writing is a people in process of losing grip on its empire and on itself.

The good writer chooses his words for their ‘meaning’, but that meaning is not a set, cut-off thing like the move of knight or pawn on a chess-board. It comes up with roots, with associations, with how and where the word is familiarly used, or where it has been used brilliantly or memorably.

WHEN you start searching for ‘pure elements’ in literature you will find that literature has been created by the following classes of persons: 1 Inventors. Men who found a new process, or whose extant work gives us the first known example of a process. 2 The masters. Men who combined a number of such processes, and who used them as well as or better than the inventors. 3 The diluters. Men who came after the first two kinds of writer, and couldn’t do the job quite as well. 4 Good writers without salient qualities. Men who are fortunate enough to be born when the literature of a given country is in good working order, or when some particular branch of writing is ‘healthy’. For example, men who wrote sonnets in Dante’s time, men who wrote short lyrics in Shakespeare’s time or for several decades thereafter, or who wrote French novels and stories after Flaubert had shown them how. 5 Writers of belles-lettres. That is, men who didn’t really invent anything, but who specialized in some particular part of writing, who couldn’t be considered as ‘great men’ or as authors who were trying to give a complete presentation of life, or of their epoch. 6 The starters of crazes.

Music rots when it gets too far from the dance. Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music.

Incompetence will show in the use of too many words.

A good deal of BAD criticism has been written by men who assume that an author is trying to do what he is NOT trying to do.

The secret of popular writing is never to put more on a given page than the common reader can lap off it with no strain WHATSOEVER on his habitually slack attention.

A nation which neglects the perceptions of its artists declines. After a while it ceases to act, and merely survives.

Real education must ultimately be limited to men who INSIST on knowing, the rest is mere sheep-herding.

If you are trying to show what a man feels, you can only do it by clarity.

Men do not understand BOOKS until they have had a certain amount of life.