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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From a Letter to Herr Advocat Conrad Schleinitz, Leipzig
By Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847)
 
Translation of Grace Wallace

BERLIN, August 1st, 1838.    
I ALWAYS think that whatever an intelligent man gives his heart to, and really understands, must become a noble vocation: and I only personally dislike those in whom there is nothing personal, and in whom all individuality disappears; as for example the military profession in peace, of which we have instances here. But with regard to the others it is more or less untrue. When one profession is compared with another, the one is usually taken in its naked reality, and the other in the most beautiful ideality; and then the decision is quickly made. How easy it is for an artist to feel such reality in his sphere, and yet esteem practical men happy who have studied and known the different relations of men towards each other, and who help others to live by their own life and progress, and at once see the fruits of all that is tangible, useful, and benevolent instituted by them! In one respect too an upright man has the hardest stand to make, in knowing that the public are more attracted by outward show than by truth. But individual failures and strife must not be allowed to have their growth in the heart: there must be something to occupy and to elevate it far above these isolated external things. This speaks strongly in favor of my opinion; for it is the best part of every calling, and common to all,—to yours, to mine, and to every other. Where is it that you find beauty when I am working at a quartet or a symphony? Merely in that portion of myself that I transfer to it, or can succeed in expressing; and you can do this in as full a measure as any man, in your defense of a culprit, or in a case of libel, or in any one thing that entirely engrosses you: and that is the great point. If you can only give utterance to your inmost thoughts, and if these inmost thoughts become more and more worthy of being expressed,… all the rest is indifferent.
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