Sunday, January 01, 2017


New Year's Day

Thomas Carlyle, letter to his brother Alexander (January 4, 1823):
I rejoice to learn that you are all well;—beginning a new year with reasonable hopes of success for the future, and without remorse for those that are gone by. I agree with you in reckoning it grossly absurd to look upon the flight of time as in any case a matter for riotous rejoicing. The newyearsday is always to me one of the saddest of the twelvemonth. One thinks with pain that so many more days have passed away forever, and been marked by so very small a portion of improvement. Dean Swift used not to make merry but lament, at the return of his birth-day: he always read on such occasions that chapter of Job where it is said "cursed be the day on which it was proclaimed that a man-child was born." The good populace have different views; they shut their eyes upon the staleness the misery and worthlessness of what is gone, they repress all feelings of regret for time misspent and opportunities neglected, they think that "age will supply the deficiencies of youth, and the emptiness of to-day will be made up by the fulness of tomorrow";—or rather the pitiful drivellers never think at all, but seize with eagerness any pretext for quaffing "factory whisky" and picking goose-bones, and fiddling and jigging, and snatching a kind of dog's enjoyment for an hour, when it is offered. Much good may it do them!—Perhaps the wretches are in the right after all.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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