I never hesitate about scraping out the work of days, and beginning afresh, so as to satisfy myself, and try to do better. Ah! that “better” which one feels in one’s soul, and without which no true artist is ever content!
Others may approve and admire; but that counts for nothing, compared with one’s own feeling of what ought to be.
Life in this world is a collecting, and all the men and women in it are collectors.
The question is, What will you collect? Most men are intent on collecting dollars. Their waking-hours are taken up with inventing plans, methods, schemes, whereby they may secure dollars from other men. To gather as many dollars as possible, and to give out as few, is the desideratum. But when you collect one thing you always incidentally collect others. The fisherman who casts his net for shad usually secures a few other fish, and once in a while a turtle, which enlarges the mesh to suit, and gives sweet liberty to the shad. To focus exclusively on dollars is to secure jealousy, fear, vanity, and a vaulting ambition that may claw its way through the mesh and let your dollars slip into the yeasty deep.
Ragged Haggard and his colleague, Cave-of-the-Winds, collect bacteria; while the fashionable young men of the day, with a few exceptions, are collecting headaches, regrets, weak nerves, tremens, paresis–death. Of course we shall all die (I will admit that), and further, we may be a long time dead (I will admit that), and moreover, we may be going through the world for the last time–as to that I do not know; but while we are here it seems the part of reason to devote our energies to collecting that which brings as much quiet joy to ourselves, and as little annoyance to others, as possible.
My heart goes out to the collector. In the soul of the collector of old books, swords, pistols, brocades, prints, clocks and bookplates, there is only truth. If he gives you his friendship, it is because you love the things that he loves; he has no selfish wish to use your good name to further his own petty plans–he only asks that you shall behold, and beholding, your eye shall glow, and your heart warm within you.
Inasmuch as we live in the age of the specialist, one man often collects books on only one subject, Dante for instance; another, nothing but volumes printed at Venice; another, works concerning the stage; and still another devotes all his spare time to securing tobacco-pipes. And I am well aware that the man who for a quarter of a century industriously collects snuffboxes has a supreme contempt for the man who collects both snuffboxes and clocks. And in this does the specialist reveal that his normal propensity to collect has degenerated. That is to say, it has refined itself into an abnormality, and from the innocent desire to collect, has shifted off into a selfish wish to outrival.
The man who collects many things, with easy, natural leanings toward, say, spoons, is pure in heart and free from guile; but when his soul centers on spoons exclusively, he has fallen from his high estate and is simply possessed of a lust for ownership–he wants to own more peculiar spoons than any other man on earth. Such a one stirs up wrath and rivalry, and is the butt and byword of all others who collect spoons.
Prosperous, practical, busy people sometimes wonder why other folks build cabinets with glass fronts and strong locks and therein store postage-stamps, bits of old silks, autographs and books that are very precious only when their leaves are uncut; and so I will here endeavor to explain. At the same time I despair of making my words intelligible to any but those who are collectors, or mayhap to those others who are in the varioloid stage.