Sunday, May 11, 2008

Auden #18

Idle curiosity is an ineradicable vice of the human mind. All of us like to discover the secrets of our neighbors, particularly the ugly ones. This has always been so, and, probably, always will be. What is relatively new, however—it is scarcely to be found before the latter half of the eighteenth century—is a blurring of the borderline between the desire for truth and idle curiosity, until, today, it has been so throughly erased that we can indulge in the latter without the slightest pangs of conscience. A great deal of what passes today for scholarly research is an activity no different from that of reading somebody's private correspondence when he is out of the room, and it doesn't really make it morally any better if he is out of the room because he is in the grave.

Introduction to Signet Classic edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets (1964)