+0
I fly to my book as the opium-smoker to his pipe. I would sooner read the catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores than nothing at all. At one time I never went out without a secondhand bookseller's list in my pocket. I know no reading more fruity. Of course to read in this way is as reprehensive as doping, and I never cease to wonder at the impertience of great readers who, becouse they are such, look down on the illiterate. From the standpoint of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a million furrows?


Hello, MrP.

How do you interpret 'from the standpoint of what eternity' here?
1 2 3 4
Comments  (Page 3) 
Angels on pin-heads? Emotion: wink
I know you will hate me posting here but I'd like to make a comment on this question.

Some of Summerset Maugham's essays contain passages very difficult for the readers to take what they really mean even if the readers are well acquainted with grammatical structures used there.

In this passage 'from the standpoint of what eternity' is used as a complex interrogative wh-phrase, as clearly pointed out by Clive. As for the interpretation of the 'eternity' here used, it seems beyond explanations found in usual dictionaries. As MrP suggested, when Maugham wrote this phrase, he might embrace the Spinoza's term 'sub specie aeternitatis' in his mind. If you want to know more about what it means, read 'Ethics' by Spinoza. But frankly I feel nobody other than Maugham himself could understand what he wanted to say exactly by this phrase 'eternity'.

Taka, please don't take this message as an offense to you.

paco
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Yes, or maybe "Zummerset" wasn't thinking about Spinoza at all. Since we aren't currently in a tedious English literature class, let's not pretend that every word written by famous authors is born of an hour of intellectual meditation.
Ugh! Oh I see, I should have spelled "Somerset" instead of "Summerset". I always misspell his name, though I was an ardent reader of his novel "Of Human Bondage". I remember I was absorbed in reading it even during math classes in my school days. 'Summing up', one of his essays, was a textbook used in our English class. But what was written there was almost gibberish to me. I admit it was partly because my English reading skill was too poor but I think it was mainly because I was too immature to anticipate what Maugham was saying there.

paco
I'd agree that Spinoza's phrase isn't now common currency. But in Maugham's day, we might say that it was at least fairly small change; perhaps a cliché.

That said, it's quite probable that we have already spent a great deal longer collectively thinking about the phrase than SM himself did.

MrP
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Hello MrP
perhaps a cliché

So do you think it is possible we can take "from the standpoint of what eternity" simply as "from what viewpoint"?

paco
Maybe a little more than that. People say 'what will it matter, a 100 years from now?' to mean 'although we are much exercised by this discussion, it really is of very little importance, if we look at it in the longer perspective'.

To use 'eternity' as the context, instead of 100 years, is a somewhat more forceful statement.

And then to ask 'from what eternity?' strengthens it still further: as if SM were saying to his imaginary interlocutor, sarcastically, 'in the context of eternity as I see it, this learning-versus-ploughing comparison is meaningless; but perhaps you, my dear interlocutor, know of other eternities in the context of which it would have meaning? If so, I'm sure we would all love to hear about them...'

Very much an IMHO, though (sub sp. aet.).

MrP
People say 'what will it matter, a 100 years from now?' to mean 'although we are much exercised by this discussion, it really is of very little importance, if we look at it in the longer perspective'. To use 'eternity' as the context, instead of 100 years, is a somewhat more forceful statement.

And then to ask 'from what eternity?' strengthens it still further: as if SM were saying to his imaginary interlocutor, sarcastically, 'in the context of eternity as I see it, this learning-versus-ploughing comparison is meaningless; but perhaps you, my dear interlocutor, know of other eternities in the context of which it would have meaning? If so, I'm sure we would all love to hear about them...'


Aha, I think I now understand vaguely what Maugham meant by the phrase. You are a really great reader of Maugham. Thank you.

paco
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
And in a hundred years we'll all be dead - will people then really care about this, or will they have other more significant things to discuss?
Show more