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“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.”

September 30, 2009

The growing horrors of Faustus are awfully marked by the hours and half-hours as they expire and bring him nearer and nearer to the exactment of his dire compact. It is indeed an agony and bloody sweat. Marlowe is said to have been tainted with atheistical positions, to have denied God and the Trinity. To such a genius the History of Faustus must have been delectable food: to wander in fields where curiosity is forbidden to go, to approach the dark gulf near enough to look in, to be busied in speculations which are the rottenest part of the core of the fruit that fell from the Tree of Knowledge. Barabas the Jew, and Faustus the Conjurer, are offsprings of a mind which at least delighted to dally with interdicted subjects. They both talk a language which a believer would have been tender of putting into the mouth of a character though but in fiction. But the holiest minds have sometimes not thought it blameable to counterfeit impiety in the person of another, to bring Vice in upon the stage speaking her own dialect, and, themselves being armed with an unction of self-confident impunity, have not scrupled to handle and touch that familiarly, which would be death to others. Milton in the person of Satan has started speculations hardier than any which the feeble armoury of the atheist ever furnished.

–Charles Lamb, in his note on Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, in Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets

Some of my friends have complained, when the preceding papers were read, that we discussed Fate, Power, and Wealth, on too low a platform; gave too much line to the evil spirit of the times; too many cakes to Cerberus; that we ran Cudworth’s risk of making, by excess of candor, the argument of atheism so strong, that he could not answer it. I have no fears of being forced in my own despite to play, as we say, the devil’s attorney. I have no infirmity of faith; no belief that it is of much importance what I or any man may say: I am sure that a certain truth will be said through me, though I should be dumb, or though I should try to say the reverse. Nor do I fear skepticism for any good soul. A just thinker will allow full swing to his skepticism. I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot. I have no sympathy with a poor man I knew, who, when suicides abounded, told me he dared not look at his razor.

–Emerson, “Worship,” from The Conduct of Life

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2009 12:08 AM

    This is my first visit to your terrific blog. I see it offers a richness of language and thought. I find myself swooning.

  2. October 1, 2009 8:27 AM

    Thanks, Allen.

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