Decadence and Other Essays on the Culture of Ideas is a collection of essays by the novelist, poet, and literary critic Remy de Gourmont. An uncompromising free-thinker, his analytical intelligence is brought to bear on an wide range of topics: the cornerstone of his literary criticism, “The Disassociation of Ideas” is included here along with “Glory and the Idea of Immortality”, “Success and the Idea of Beauty”, “The Value of Education”, “Stéphane Mallarmé and the Idea of Decadence”, and more.
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GLORY AND THE IDEA OF IMMORTALITY The idea of glory is not one of the most difficult to resolve. It can be identified with the general idea of immortality, of which it is but one of the secondary and nai'ver forms, differing from it only in the substitution of vanity for pride. In the one we have the idea of duration fortified by the pride of a being who believes himself of immortal importance, but who consents to enjoy without fuss an absolute perennity. In the other, vanity, replacing pride, puts aside the idea of the absolute, or, declaring itself incapable of attaining it, clings to a desire of eternity, no doubt, but an objective eternity, perceptible to others a ceremonial eternity which wastes in world-wide repute that which absolute immortality gains in depth and in proud humility. Abstract words define inadequately an abstract idea. It is better to fall back upon the common opinion. Everybody knows what glory is. Every writer pictures to himself literary glory. Nothing is clearer than this sort of illusion. Nothing is clearer than love and desire. Definitions, which are indispensable for dictionaries only, contain of reality precisely what a net, raised at the wrong moment from the sea where it awaited its prey, contains of obscure, squirming life.Sea-weed writhes in its meshes. Lanky creatures stir their translucent claws, and here are all sorts of helices or of valvules which a mechanical sensibility keeps tight-shut. But reality, which was a big fish, with a sudden swish of its tail, flopped overboard. Generally speaking, clear, neat sentences have no meaning. They are affirmative gestures, suggesting obedience, and that is all. The human mind is so complex, and thingsare so tangled up in each other that, in order to explain a blade of grass, the entire universe wo...
Table of Contents
- The Disassociation of Ideas
- Glory and the Idea of Immortality
- Success and the Idea of Beauty
- The Value of Education
- Women and Language
- Stéphane Mallarmé and the Idea of Decadence
- On Style or Writing
- Subconscious Creation
- The Roots of Idealism