I'm a firm believer that use of good analogies is a reliable indicator of intelligence. The ability to convey a complex concept by comparing it to one easier to understand is the mark of a gifted communicator.
So, how would you go about describing the dangers of self-reflection when vexed?
When one is vexed, one must avoid meditating about oneself. One is like a man with jaundice: he must not study the map of the countries he is about to traverse—he would see everything in yellow. Yellow is the colour of Sweden, so he would believe that every country was Sweden, and if by chance the King of Sweden had set a price upon his head, he would be in despair: this despair would be the effect of his jaundice. And such is the effect from which I suffer every time I go to Grenoble; so much so that, on the last occasion, I almost entirely avoided thinking about my future.
—Stendhal to his sister Pauline, 17-Sep-1805
To the Happy Few: selected letters of Stendhal (trans. Norman Cameron) (1952)
…I'm reluctantly beginning to accept I'll never be recognised as a literary genius on a par with Stendhal.
The latest edition of the London Review of Books contains an unprecedented number of chortles. By which, I mean two.
The first chortle came in Adam Mars-Jones's review of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter:
A letter to the Guardian from Rab MacWilliam, 6 October 2007:
Further to David McKie’s piece on famous last words, I remember reading about the last words of the US writer O. Henry. He was lying motionless on his deathbed and nobody around knew if he was still alive. ‘I know,’ said one of the group, ‘touch his feet—no one ever died with warm feet.’ O. Henry slowly raised his head from the pillow, commented ‘Joan of Arc did,’ and promptly expired.
Unfortunately, Mars-Jones goes on to debunk these splendid last words, although he does concede they might actually have been spoken by somebody else, namely Samuel Upham, a professor at Drew Theological Seminary.
The second chortle came in Rosemary Hill's review (subscribers-only link) of Osbert Lancaster’s Cartoons, Columns and Curlicues: ‘Pillar to Post’, ‘Homes Sweet Homes’, ‘Drayneflete Revealed’ by Osbert Lancaster. The ‘her’ in the following quote is Osbert Lancaster’s first wife, the artist Karen Harris:
Her father, who was a vice-chairman of Lloyds Bank, suffered from numerous delusions, including a belief that he had crossed the Channel with Blériot, while her mother painted what [artist John] Piper called ‘terrible chi-chi’ pictures under the name of Rognon de la Flèche.
It's nice to see the London Review of Books taking itself a tad less seriously once in a while. I shall continue to renew my subscription.