Every man, as he walks through the streets, may contrive to jot down an independent thought, a shorthand memorandum of a great truth. Standing on one leg you may accomplish this. The labour of composition begins when you have to put your separate threads of thought into a loom; to weave them into a continuous whole, to introduce them; to blow them out or expand them; to carry them to a close.
Thomas De Quincey, who lived between 1785 and 1859, was a writer, author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, among other works.
His quote is found in William H. Gass’s latest book of essays, Life Sentences. Gass considers De Quincey to be among the few writers who address “the question of the form of the paragraph as well as the shape of the phrase” and who take seriously “the lost art of eloquence.”
Gass could have mentioned himself in this group. As a philosophy professor, novelist, and especially an essayist, Gass has long been concerned with the theoretical matters of literature, especially the sentence.