Payment and reserved copyright

Payment and reserved copyright are at bottom the ruin of literature. Only he who writes entirely for the sake of what he has to say writes anything worth writing. It is as if there were a curse on money: every writer writes badly as soon as he starts writing for gain.

Arthur Schopenhauer

PG will note that both of Schopenhauer’s parents were descendants of wealthy German-Dutch patrician families.

5 thoughts on “Payment and reserved copyright”

  1. Though there is an element of truth in what he says, but I’d frame it as ‘if you love writing, then you’ll make money from writing. But if you love money, then there are easier ways of making money.

  2. His mother wrote him this “interesting” letter. Letter from Johanna Schopenhauer to her son Arthur Schopenhauer, dated 6 November 1807.

    ‘You are not an evil human; you are not without intellect and education; you have everything that could make you a credit to human society. Moreover, I am acquainted with your heart and know that few are better, but you are nevertheless irritating and unbearable, and I consider it most difficult to live with you.
    All of your good qualities become obscured by your super-cleverness and are made useless to the world merely because of your rage at wanting to know everything better than others; of wanting to improve and master what you cannot command. With this you embitter the people around you, since no one wants to be improved or enlightened in such a forceful way, least of all by such an insignificant individual as you still are; no one can tolerate being reproved by you, who also still show so many weaknesses yourself, least of all in your adverse manner, which in oracular tones, proclaims this is so and so, without ever supposing an objection.
    If you were less like you, you would only be ridiculous, but thus as you are, you are highly annoying’.

  3. It reminds me a great deal of the quote often attributed to Dr (Samual) Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote for money.” This is a partial misquotation from Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791), one of the more-famous-but-almost-never-read book-length works of seventeenth-century English literature. It accurately — sort of — catches the sense, but…

    Tracing it down in Boswell, and reading it in context, is fascinating: The paragraph before, paragraph of, and two paragraphs following the “blockhead” cite not less than seven instances of Johnson himself writing for money. And reading the book as a whole demonstrates that Johnson was, for all of his ego and intellectual achievement, rather prone to self-deprecation (at least as relayed to us by Boswell, which is an interesting bit of “editorial intrusion” in itself!).

Comments are closed.