Friday, February 17, 2012

Stuarte Cloete on the Phases of Life

Art Deco-era poster. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.

From Stuart Cloete, A Victorian Son. New York: John Day Company, 1972, p. 15—

The first twenty years of anyone's life are more or less spent in growing up, not that a human being is developed or fully matured by then, but it is an approximation. The next twenty years in the life of a man or a woman are the period which is dominated by the sexual urge. Biologically speaking, at forty, both men and women can be and often are grandparents. Sex may continue to manifest itself till an advanced age but the fury has gone out of it…This is the period of maturity. Success has either been achieved or not achieved by forty. The ladder must, by this time, be at least partially climbed. After sixty comes the last period of life—the evening, where thought and memory replace action. Where a man not only puts his material affairs in order but tries to sort out his life, to evaluate his failures and successes. Where, with sufficient perspective, he can at last begin to see the wood without being confused by the trees.