Now this, you must know, being my chapter upon chapters, which I promised to write before I went to sleep, I thought it meet to ease my conscience entirely before I laid down, by telling the world all I knew about the matter at once: Is not this ten times better than to set out dogmatically with a sententious parade of wisdom, and telling the world a story of a roasted horse——that chapters relieve the mind—that they assist—or impose upon the imagination—and that in a work of this dramatic cast they are as necessary as the shifting of scenes——with fifty other cold conceits, enough to extinguish the fire which roasted him?—O! but to understand this, which is a puff at the fire of Diana’s temple—you must read Longinus—read away—if you are not a jot the wiser by reading him the first time over—never fear—read him again—Avicenna and Licetus read Aristotle’s metaphysicks forty times through apiece, and never understood a single word.—But mark the consequence—Avicenna turned out a desperate writer at all kinds of writing—for he wrote books de omni scribili; and for Licetus (Fortunio) though all the world knows he was born a fœtus, of no more than five inches and a half in length, yet he grew to that astonishing height in literature, as to write a book with a title as long as himself———the learned know I mean his Gonopsychanthropologia, upon the origin of the human soul.
Laurence Sterne – Tristram Shandy
There is not a more perplexing affair in life to me, than to set about telling any one who I am—for there is scarce anybody I cannot give a better account of than of myself; and I have often wish’d I could do it in a single word—and have an end of it.
Laurence Sterne – A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.