The title quotation was said, not so long ago, by a distinguished scholar of 17th century English literature. I don't want to go into the context too much, but if you are giving a paper in a graduate seminar and you hear this, you're doing something wrong.
I think of this line routinely when writing about old books, or reading about them on other blogs. Meine Frau suggests the metaphor of arriving at a party late and trying to join an ongoing conversation. Perhaps it would be polite to listen a bit before jumping in - maybe someone has already said what you're dying to say.
At some point, though, we go ahead and plunge in. By, say, writing a blog post. Perhaps we have acquired some real knowledge, or perhaps our enthusiam just gets the best of us. Reading Jane Eyre, I occasionally stop to puzzle around what or how (or if) I will write about it. People, it turns out, have written about Jane Eyre. My unmediated first reading is full of insights that are new, exciting, and of the highest interest - to me. To you, indulgent reader - we'll see.
It's actually much easier to write about the shadowy and obscure. People have written about Thomas Lovell-Beddoes, but hardly to the same degree. My insights are no more original, but somehow the competition is less fierce. Not like Jane Eyre. Not like Hamlet.
Beginning Thursday, I think, Nigel Bene will be hosting a discussion of Hamlet in which I will participate. People will be writing about Hamlet. Nigel has invited one and all to stop by. I don't expect to contribute anything especially original, but I do plan to have a good time.