A place does not clearly exist for the imagination, till we have moved elsewhere. The tenor of our experience, one day melting into another, unifies into a single picture; out of many sunsets, many dawns, and many starry rambles, we compound a tertium quid, a glorified quintessence; the honey of honey, the cream of cream; a classical landscape, artificially composed and far more lively, winning and veracious than the scene it represents.
For single glances may, indeed, be memorable; they are the traits of which we afterwards compose our fancy likeness; but the eye cannot embrace a panorama; the eye, like the etcher’s needle, cannot elaborate from nature; and literature, which is the language of our thoughts, must be gently elaborated in the course of time.
Hence it is that a place grows upon our fancy after we have left it, taking more and more the colour of our predilections, growing, like our childhood, daily more beautiful through the cunning excisions of oblivion; until it means, at last, for that inward eye of which the poet tells us, something at once familiar and express, like the remembered countenance of a friend.
Robert Louis Stevenson: Simoneau’s At Monterey, ca. 1879,first published 1966.
Francis Bacon Duo: Portrait of Lucian Freud (above); Double Portrait of Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud (below).