To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you
in your private heart is true for all people—that is genius. Speak your
latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in
due time becomes the outmost, and our first thought is rendered back
to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of
the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and
Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions; and spoke not
what men and women, but what they thought. A person should learn
to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his or
her mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards
and sages. Yet he or she dismisses without notice his or her thought,
because it is his or hers. In every work of genius we recognize our own
rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They
teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored
inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side.
Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely
what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to
take with shame our own opinion from another.