Friday, October 19, 2007


Penury of Words

Thomas De Quincey, Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets, ed. David Wright (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970):
For the first two years of my residence at Oxford, I compute that I did not utter one hundred words. (p. 118)

In early youth I labored under a peculiar embarrassment and penury of words, when I sought to convey my thoughts adequately upon interesting subjects: neither was it words only that I wanted; but I could not unravel, I could not even make perfectly conscious to myself, or properly arrange the subsidiary thoughts into which one leading thought often radiates; or, at least, I could not do this with anything like the rapidity requisite for conversation. I laboured like a Sibyl instinct with the burden of prophetic wo, as often as I found myself dealing with any topic in which the understanding combined with deep feelings to suggest mixed and tangled thoughts: and thus partly — partly also from my invincible habit of reverie — at that era of my life, I had a most distinguished talent 'pour le silence.' Wordsworth, from something of the same causes, suffered (by his own report to myself) at the same age from pretty much the same infirmity. (p. 124)
Related post: Portrait of a Shy Man.

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