I am not at all certain that I am modest; but those who have read so far through my work will credit me with enough decency, tact, savoir-faire, what you will, to prevent me from making a song for my own glory out of the words of other people. No! The true motive of my selection lies in quite a different trait. I have always had a propensity to justify my action.

Not to defend. To justify. Not to insist that I was right but simply to explain that there was no perverse intention, no secret scorn for the natural sensibilities of mankind at the bottom of my impulses.

That kind of weakness is dangerous only so far that it exposes one to the risk of becoming a bore; for the world generally is not interested in the motives of any overt act but in its consequences. Man may smile and smile but he is not an investigating animal. He loves the obvious. He shrinks from explanations. Yet I will go on with mine.

– Joseph Conrad, Preface to The Secret Agent (1907)


The fly strikes against the window-pane until at last she learns that, though invisible, there is an obstacle there.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Giotto had some very ugly children. Someone having asked him why he made such lovely faces in his paintings and such ugly children in his life, he answered, “My children are night work. My pictures are my day work.”

– Paul Gauguin, Gauguin’s Intimate Journals

The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.

― Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)