(visions) of strange cities, of sandy plains, of gigantic ruins, of midnight skies with strange bright constellations, of mountain-passes, of grassy nooks flecked with the afternoon sunshine through the boughs: I was in the midst of such scenes, and in all of them one presence seemed to weigh on me in all these mighty shapes - the presence of something unknown and pitiless. For continual suffering had annihilated religious faith within me: to the utterly miserable - the unloving and the unloved - there is no religion possible, no worship but a worship of devils. And beyond all these, and continually recurring, was the vision of my death - the pangs, the suffocation, the last struggle, when life would be grasped at in vain. ("The Lifted Veil")
But old Christmas smiled as he laid this cruel-seeming spell on the out-door world, for he meant to light up the home with new brightness, to deepen all the richness of in-door colour, and give a keener edge of delight to the warm fragrance of food: he meant to prepare a sweet imprisonment that would strengthen the primitive fellowship of kindred,and make the sunshine of familiar human faces as welcome as the hidden day-star. His kindness fell but hardly on the homeless--fell but hardly on the homes where the hearth was not very warm, and where the food had little fragrance, where the human faces had no sunshine in them,but rather the leaden, blank-eyed gaze of unexpectant want. But the fine old season meant well; and if he has not learnt the secret how to bless men impartially, it is because his father Time, with unrelenting purpose, still hides that secret in his own mighty, slow-beating heart.
You must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honorable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying, There’s this and there’s that—if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it. No matter what a man is—I wouldn’t give twopence for him’— here Caleb’s mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers— ‘whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.
The fact is unalterable, that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship, may, when seen in the continuity of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same.
That is the way with us when we have any uneasy jealousy in our disposition: if our talents are chiefly of the burrowing kind, our honey-sipping cousin (whom we have grave reasons for objecting to) is likely to have a secret contempt for us, and any one who admires him passes an oblique criticism on ourselves. Having the scruples of rectitude in our souls, we are above the meanness of injuring him—rather we meet all his claims on us by active benefits; and the drawing of cheques for him, being a superiority which he must recognize, gives our bitterness a milder infusion.
He had been someone before. That person had been the result of a lifetime of choices, good and bad. And like it or not, he was drawing closer to that identity now. Not the freedom of infinite variety, but the tyranny of a decision made, a path walked, a life lived.