Thursday, January 1, 2009

A more substantial & true air

Clive James, in a recorded conversation with Peter Porter, remarked upon the way that words magically give the strength of reality to what they are expressing: "Words are magic, that's the problem. It doesn't matter how violent a drawing of you - a caricature could be as violent as you can imagine and you'll still want to buy the original because the drawing doesn't matter. Words matter, and sometimes people say something about you and it's very hard to get it out of your head."

Charles Darwin put it elegantly in his Beagle Diary, in an entry dated 26 May 1832. He was in Rio de Janiero at the time and rereading Alexander von Humboldt's Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, During the Year 1799-1804: "I know not the reason why a thought which has passed through the mind, when we see it embodied in words, immediately assumes a more substantial & true air."

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