You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.
Against a diseased imagination demonstration goes for nothing.
The human imagination is much more capable than it gets credit for. This is
why Niagara is always a disappointment when one sees it for the first time.
One's imagination has long ago built a Niagara to which this one is a poor dribbling
thing. The ocean "with its waves running mountain high" is always
a disappointment at first sight; the imagination has constructed real mountains,
whereas these when swelling at their very biggest and highest are not imposing.
The Taj is a disappointment though people are ashamed to confess it. God will
be a disappointment to most of us, at first. I wish I could see the Niagaras
and Tajs which the human imagination has constructed, why then, bless you, I
should see Atlantics pouring down out of the sky over cloud ranges, and I should
see Tajs of a form so gracious and a spiritual expression so divine and altogether
so sublime and so lovely and worshipful that--well--St. Peter's, Vesuvius, Heaven,
Hell, everything that is much described is bound to be a disappointment at first
- Mark Twain's Notebook
You can find in a text whatever you bring, if you will stand between it and
the mirror of your imagination. You may not see your ears, but they will be
- "A Fable"
Now, isn't imagination a precious thing? It peoples the earth with all manner
of wonders, strange beasts and birds, angels, cherubim and seraphim. And it
has to be exercised. No child should be permitted to grow up without exercise
for imagination. It enriches life for him. It makes things wonderful and beautiful.
- speech in Elmira, April 1907 (reprinted in Mark Twain in Elmira by Jerome & Wisbey)
"A Surprise Party to Mark Twain by His Characters"
From 1915 advertisement for Author's National Edition of Mark Twain's Works.
From the Dave Thomson collection.
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