Why Write, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
Scribere est agere, fancy Latin words, a legal maxim, "To write is to act." "The author who is bound to write is the man or woman who has acquired, by the continual study of years, exceptional sources of knowledge. If that knowledge is not bequeathed, posterity is a heavy loser." These are fine words,1 however, people usually write for lesser reasons. George Orwell in his book, Why I Write (1947) thought there are four great motives for writing: first, sheer egoism, a desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death; second, aesthetic enthusiasm; Third, historical impulse, the desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity; and fourth, for a political purpose, and in the use of the word "political," Orwell meant to use the word in its widest possible sense, that is to say, a desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.
If the memory of a person gets installed in another person's mind (forgeting for the moment its accuracy), it does not last much beyond the death of the person being remembered. This, -- addressing George Orwell's first great motive for writing -- is not so much the case if the person being remembered is an author.
"Unless an English author has had his portrait painted by Reynolds or his life written by Boswell, he has small chance of being remembered (apart from the recollections of a small and every-dwindling group of friends), save by his books. They are, indeed, his only chance. I do not say it is a good chance. I have fallen asleep over too many books to say that. What I do say is, it is his only chance.
You can know a man from his books, and if he is a writer of good faith and has the knack, you may know him very well; better it well may be than did his co-directors or his partners in business, or even - for I am here to tell the truth - his own flesh and blood." (Augustine Birrell).2
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