an island in the sea, unwarranted eruption; even the delicate tracery
Even the delicate tracery of a pen portrait, the most finished if the least inspiring form of essay-writing, conveys its moral to the world. I do not include in this category sketches of public characters or of personal friends, which are journalistic, and belong to an exclusive class of reporting. I have in mind such a triumphant piece as Mr. Flandrau’s “Mr. and Mrs. Parke,” in which a human type, set in its appropriate surroundings, like a jewel in a ring or an island in the sea, is presented without pity and without asperity. The elderly Boston couple whose lives have been spent in “the deification of the unessential, the reduction of puttering to a science,” live convincingly in the few pages assigned to them. Mr. Flandrau is as kind to their facile virtues as he is tolerant of their essential unworthiness. He murmurs endearing words while he probes delicately into their tranquil and unfathomable selfishness. If the intrusion of a friend into their vast empty house affects them as an unwarranted eruption of Vesuvius might affect a careless dweller on its crest, if they fell that the universe is out of gear when an expressman has left their daily box of flowers at the wrong house, it is because they have come to believe that making themselves superlatively and harmoniously comfortable justifies existence. Moving as smoothly in their orbit as do the “formal stars,” they feel they are part of the well-ordered scheme of creation, and they have said to their souls, “Take thine ease.”
The wind of war has winnowed the chaff from the wheat, and the pleasantness of life is not, at the last analysis, the gift mostly deeply prized. We have let it go, and gathered to our hearts impelling duties and austerities.
But ! Agnes Repplier (1855-1950), a complicated (and Catholic) and prolific and careful writer, mainly of essays
wikipedia : link
more in the finding aid, Agnes Repplier papers at UPenn : link
Repplier is present (and a speaker) at Mark Twain’s 70th birthday, see the “Record of a dinner given in celebration thereof at Delmonico’s on the evening of December 5, 1905”) in a “Supplement to Harper’s weekly, December 23, 1905.” : link
interesting photographs of guests/participants, at each table.