Monday, October 06, 2014

`Men for Whom the Old Things Are Fresh'

At least in literary terms and probably otherwise, the present must always be a small, provincial backwater.  Nothing dates so quickly or thoroughly as the topical, fashionable or new. “News,” if it weren’t so convenient a word, would be an irony-dripping oxymoron. The smallest of literary minds dwell exclusively on the new in the now. The past is for them a self-consuming irrelevancy, something to shake off like a lingering cold. Those who equate novelty with courage and accomplishment are like those who attribute benign intentionality to the evolution of species. Progress is a self-congratulatory myth. On this date, Oct. 6, in 1928, G.K. Chesterton published a column, “A New Theory of Novelty,” in the Illustrated Daily News: 

“…it is necessary to have novelty; but the novelty is not necessarily improvement. It does not necessarily give the man for whom the old things are stale any right to scorn the man for whom the old things are fresh. And there always are men for whom the old things are fresh. Such men, so far from being behind the times, are altogether above the times. They are too individual and original to be affected by the trivial changes of time.” 

Eighty-six years ago this was journalism – news. Chesterton was a rare “individual and original” man who might have agreed with Charles Lamb: “Damn the age; I will write for Antiquity!” 

1 comment:

betsy said...

"Prufrock" led me to your blog, and how happy I am that it did!

Chesterton and Charles Lamb in the same post-