Aphorisms by Logan Pearsall Smith

Logan Pearsall Smith (Geary’s Guide pp. 173–174) described aphorisms as “x-rays of observation.” His father was an evangelical Quaker and his mother a best-selling author of inspirational literature, so it’s no wonder the young Logan Pearsall became an obsessive collector of aphorisms. He specialized in English–language aphorists, compiling an important anthology and writing monographs about unjustly neglected practitioners of the form. Although an American, Smith lived almost his entire adult life in London, where he became known as an essayist and critic. As a young man in Philadelphia, he knew Walt Whitman, from nearby Camden, New Jersey. One of his sisters married Bertrand Russell (GG p. 346), and Smith once employed Cyril Connolly (GG pp. 29–30) as an assistant. Smith wrote what is, for me, one of the all-time great aphorisms:

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.

Though his aphoristic output was small, there are a relatively high rate of keepers, such these, culled from a recent reading of All Trivia:

Aphorisms are salted and not sugared almonds at Reason’s feast.

He who goes against the fashion is himself its slave.

A best-seller is the gilded tomb of a mediocre talent.

If you are losing your leisure, look out! You may be losing your soul.

The notion of making money by popular work, and then retiring to do good work on the proceeds, is the most familiar of all the devil’s traps for artists.

How many of our daydreams would darken into nightmares, were there a danger of their coming true!

Solvency is entirely a matter of temperament.