Me and E. B. White

In a free country it is the duty of writers to pay no attention to duty.—E. B. White

I quote Amazon:

E. B. White (1899 1985) is best known for his children’s books, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. Columnist for The New Yorker for over half a century and co-author of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, White hit his stride as an American literary icon when he began publishing his ‘One Man’s Meat’ columns from his saltwater farm on the coast of Maine.

This post includes some of my favorite statements made by Mr. White. In addition to the books in the previous paragraph there are at least two collections of his essays. One Man’s Meat and Essays of E. B. White. This first quote comes from Coon Tree.

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future if man spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.

He also defined my idea of world peace in the essay he titled Unity.

Most people think of peace as a state of Nothing Bad Happening, or Nothing Much Happening. Yet if peace is to overtake us and make us the gift of serenity and well-being, it will have to be the state of Something Good Happening.

I like his capitalization. Nature is a proper noun. So is Something Good.

One of my favorite essays is Once More to the Lake. He writes about taking his son to a country lake that impressed him emotionally in a profound way when he was his son’s age. He wrote:

Everywhere we went I had trouble making out which was I, the one walking at my side, the one walking in my pants.

 Mr. White recorded his dismay at the death of a pig who, had he lived, would have been butchered. The pig fell sick. This is what our friend wrote in Death of a Pig.

I spent several days and nights in mid-September with an ailing pig and I feel driven to account for the stretch of time, more particularly since the pig died at last, and I have lived, and things might easily have gone the other way round and none left to do the accounting.

When he buries the animal he notes that he is not lamenting the loss of a ham, but rather the loss of a pig. They had become friends, not merely master and slave.

I have said before in this blog that Mr. White’s essays contain as much kindness and wisdom as anything I have found anywhere.

I will conclude this post with one of his instructions from The Elements of Style.

Omit needless words.

And I shall.

By Melissa Hardiman

By Melissa Hardiman

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