By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Conduct of Life
Author: Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Conduct of Life" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


                            CONDUCT OF LIFE.


                             R. W. EMERSON.

                      JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,

       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
                             R. W. EMERSON,
     in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of


      I. Fate
     II. Power
    III. Wealth
     IV. Culture
      V. Behavior
     VI. Worship
    VII. Considerations by the Way
   VIII. Beauty
     IX. Illusions



    Delicate omens traced in air
    To the lone bard true witness bare;
    Birds with auguries on their wings
    Chanted undeceiving things
    Him to beckon, him to warn;
    Well might then the poet scorn
    To learn of scribe or courier
    Hints writ in vaster character;
    And on his mind, at dawn of day,
    Soft shadows of the evening lay.
    For the prevision is allied
    Unto the thing so signified;
    Or say, the foresight that awaits
    Is the same Genius that creates.


It chanced during one winter, a few years ago, that our cities were bent
on discussing the theory of the Age.  By an odd coincidence, four or
five noted men were each reading a discourse to the citizens of Boston
or New York, on the Spirit of the Times.  It so happened that the
subject had the same prominence in some remarkable pamphlets and
journals issued in London in the same season.  To me, however, the
question of the times resolved itself into a practical question of the
conduct of life.  How shall I live?  We are incompetent to solve the
times.  Our geometry cannot span the huge orbits of the prevailing
ideas, behold their return, and reconcile their opposition. We can only
obey our own polarity.  ’Tis fine for us to speculate and elect our
course, if we must accept an irresistible dictation.

In our first steps to gain our wishes, we come upon immovable
limitations.  We are fired with the hope to reform men.  After many
experiments, we find that we must begin earlier,—at school.  But the
boys and girls are not docile; we can make nothing of them.  We decide
that they are not of good stock.  We must begin our reform earlier
still,—at generation: that is to say, there is Fate, or laws of the

But if there be irresistible dictation, this dictation understands
itself.  If we must accept Fate, we are not less compelled to affirm
liberty, the significance of the individual, the grandeur of duty, the
power of character.  This is true, and that other is true.  But our
geometry cannot span these extreme points, and reconcile them.  What to
do? By obeying each thought frankly, by harping, or, if you will,
pounding on each string, we learn at last its power.  By the same
obedience to other thoughts, we learn theirs, and then comes some
reasonable hope of harmonizing them.  We are sure, that, though we know
not how, necessity does comport with liberty, the individual with the
world, my polarity with the spirit of the times. The riddle of the age
has for each a private solution.  If one would study his own time, it
must be by this method of taking up in turn each of the leading topics
which belong to our scheme of human life, and, by firmly stating all
that is agreeable to experience on one, and doing the same justice to
the opposing facts in the others, the true limitations will appear.  Any
excess of emphasis, on one part, would be corrected, and a just balance
would be made.

But let us honestly state the facts.  Our America has a bad name for
superficialness.  Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and
buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned
themselves to face it.  The Spartan, embodying his religion in his
country, dies before its majesty without a question.  The Turk, who
believes his doom is written on the iron leaf in the moment when he
entered the world, rushes on the enemy’s sabre with undivided will.  The
Turk, the Arab, the Persian, accepts the foreordained fate.

    "On two days, it steads not to run from thy grave,
      The appointed, and the unappointed day;
    On the first, neither balm nor physician can save,
      Nor thee, on the second, the Universe slay."

The Hindoo, under the wheel, is as firm.  Our Calvinists, in the last
generation, had something of the same dignity.  They felt that the
weight of the Universe held them down to their place. What could _they_
do?  Wise men feel that there is something which cannot be talked or
voted away,—a strap or belt which girds the world.

    "The Destiny, minister general,
    That executeth in the world o’er all,
    The purveyance which God hath seen beforne,
    So strong it is, that tho’ the world had sworn
    The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,
    Yet sometime it shall fallen on a day
    That falleth not oft in a thousand year;
    For, certainly, our appetites here,
    Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love,
    All this is ruled by the sight above."
      CHAUCER: _The Knight’s Tale_.

The Greek Tragedy expressed the same sense: "Whatever is fated, that
will take place.  The great immense mind of Jove is not to be

Savages cling to a local god of one tribe or town.  The broad ethics of
Jesus were quickly narrowed to village theologies, which preach an
election or favoritism.  And, now and then, an amiable parson, like Jung
Stilling, or Robert Huntington, believes in a pistareen-Providence,
which, whenever the good man wants a dinner, makes that somebody shall
knock at his door, and leave a half-dollar.  But Nature is no
sentimentalist,—does not cosset or pamper us.  We must see that the
world is rough and surly, and will not mind drowning a man or a woman;
but swallows your ship like a grain of dust.  The cold, inconsiderate of
persons, tingles your blood, benumbs your feet, freezes a man like an
apple.  The diseases, the elements, fortune, gravity, lightning, respect
no persons.  The way of Providence is a little rude. The habit of snake
and spider, the snap of the tiger and other leapers and bloody jumpers,
the crackle of the bones of his prey in the coil of the anaconda,—these
are in the system, and our habits are like theirs.  You have just dined,
and, however scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the
graceful distance of miles, there is complicity,—expensive races,—race
living at the expense of race.  The planet is liable to shocks from
comets, perturbations from planets, rendings from earthquake and
volcano, alterations of climate, precessions of equinoxes.  Rivers dry
up by opening of the forest.  The sea changes its bed.  Towns and
counties fall into it.  At Lisbon, an earthquake killed men like flies.
At Naples, three years ago, ten thousand persons were crushed in a few
minutes.  The scurvy at sea; the sword of the climate in the west of
Africa, at Cayenne, at Panama, at New Orleans, cut off men like a
massacre.  Our western prairie shakes with fever and ague.  The cholera,
the small-pox, have proved as mortal to some tribes, as a frost to the
crickets, which, having filled the summer with noise, are silenced by a
fall of the temperature of one night.  Without uncovering what does not
concern us, or counting how many species of parasites hang on a bombyx;
or groping after intestinal parasites, or infusory biters, or the
obscurities of alternate generation;—the forms of the shark, the
_labrus_, the jaw of the sea-wolf paved with crushing teeth, the weapons
of the grampus, and other warriors hidden in the sea,—are hints of
ferocity in the interiors of nature. Let us not deny it up and down.
Providence has a wild, rough, incalculable road to its end, and it is of
no use to try to whitewash its huge, mixed instrumentalities, or to
dress up that terrific benefactor in a clean shirt and white neckcloth
of a student in divinity.

Will you say, the disasters which threaten mankind are exceptional, and
one need not lay his account for cataclysms every day?  Aye, but what
happens once, may happen again, and so long as these strokes are not to
be parried by us, they must be feared.

But these shocks and ruins are less destructive to us, than the stealthy
power of other laws which act on us daily.  An expense of ends to means
is fate;—organization tyrannizing over character. The menagerie, or
forms and powers of the spine, is a book of fate: the bill of the bird,
the skull of the snake, determines tyrannically its limits.  So is the
scale of races, of temperaments; so is sex; so is climate; so is the
reaction of talents imprisoning the vital power in certain directions.
Every spirit makes its house; but afterwards the house confines the

The gross lines are legible to the dull: the cabman is phrenologist so
far: he looks in your face to see if his shilling is sure.  A dome of
brow denotes one thing; a pot-belly another; a squint, a pugnose, mats
of hair, the pigment of the epidermis, betray character.  People seem
sheathed in their tough organization.  Ask Spurzheim, ask the doctors,
ask Quetelet, if temperaments decide nothing? or if there be anything
they do not decide?  Read the description in medical books of the four
temperaments, and you will think you are reading your own thoughts which
you had not yet told.  Find the part which black eyes, and which blue
eyes, play severally in the company.  How shall a man escape from his
ancestors, or draw off from his veins the black drop which he drew from
his father’s or his mother’s life?  It often appears in a family, as if
all the qualities of the progenitors were potted in several jars,—some
ruling quality in each son or daughter of the house,—and sometimes the
unmixed temperament, the rank unmitigated elixir, the family vice, is
drawn off in a separate individual, and the others are proportionally
relieved. We sometimes see a change of expression in our companion, and
say, his father, or his mother, comes to the windows of his eyes, and
sometimes a remote relative.  In different hours, a man represents each
of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us
rolled up in each man’s skin,--seven or eight ancestors at least,—and
they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which
his life is.  At the corner of the street, you read the possibility of
each passenger, in the facial angle, in the complexion, in the depth of
his eye. His parentage determines it.  Men are what their mothers made
them.  You may as well ask a loom which weaves huckaback, why it does
not make cashmere, as expect poetry from this engineer, or a chemical
discovery from that jobber.  Ask the digger in the ditch to explain
Newton’s laws: the fine organs of his brain have been pinched by
overwork and squalid poverty from father to son, for a hundred years.
When each comes forth from his mother’s womb, the gate of gifts closes
behind him. Let him value his hands and feet, he has but one pair.  So
he has but one future, and that is already predetermined in his lobes,
and described in that little fatty face, pig-eye, and squat form.  All
the privilege and all the legislation of the world cannot meddle or help
to make a poet or a prince of him.

Jesus said, "When he looketh on her, he hath committed adultery."  But
he is an adulterer before he has yet looked on the woman, by the
superfluity of animal, and the defect of thought, in his constitution.
Who meets him, or who meets her, in the street, sees that they are ripe
to be each other’s victim.

In certain men, digestion and sex absorb the vital force, and the
stronger these are, the individual is so much weaker.  The more of these
drones perish, the better for the hive.  If, later, they give birth to
some superior individual, with force enough to add to this animal a new
aim, and a complete apparatus to work it out, all the ancestors are
gladly forgotten.  Most men and most women are merely one couple more.
Now and then, one has a new cell or camarilla opened in his brain,—an
architectural, a musical, or a philological knack, some stray taste or
talent for flowers, or chemistry, or pigments, or story-telling, a good
hand for drawing, a good foot for dancing, an athletic frame for wide
journeying, &c.—which skill nowise alters rank in the scale of nature,
but serves to pass the time, the life of sensation going on as before.
At last, these hints and tendencies are fixed in one, or in a
succession.  Each absorbs so much food and force, as to become itself a
new centre.  The new talent draws off so rapidly the vital force, that
not enough remains for the animal functions, hardly enough for health;
so that, in the second generation, if the like genius appear, the health
is visibly deteriorated, and the generative force impaired.

People are born with the moral or with the material bias;—uterine
brothers with this diverging destination: and I suppose, with high
magnifiers, Mr. Frauenhofer or Dr. Carpenter might come to distinguish
in the embryo at the fourth day, this is a Whig, and that a Free-soiler.

It was a poetic attempt to lift this mountain of Fate, to reconcile this
despotism of race with liberty, which led the Hindoos to say, "Fate is
nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence."  I find
the coincidence of the extremes of eastern and western speculation in
the daring statement of Schelling, "there is in every man a certain
feeling, that he has been what he is from all eternity, and by no means
became such in time."  To say it less sublimely,—in the history of the
individual is always an account of his condition, and he knows himself
to be a party to his present estate.

A good deal of our politics is physiological.  Now and then, a man of
wealth in the heyday of youth adopts the tenet of broadest freedom.  In
England, there is always some man of wealth and large connection
planting himself, during all his years of health, on the side of
progress, who, as soon as he begins to die, checks his forward play,
calls in his troops, and becomes conservative.  All conservatives are
such from personal defects.  They have been effeminated by position or
nature, born halt and blind, through luxury of their parents, and can
only, like invalids, act on the defensive.  But strong natures,
backwoodsmen, New Hampshire giants, Napoleons, Burkes, Broughams,
Websters, Kossuths, are inevitable patriots, until their life ebbs, and
their defects and gout, palsy and money, warp them.

The strongest idea incarnates itself in majorities and nations, in the
healthiest and strongest. Probably, the election goes by avoirdupois
weight, and, if you could weigh bodily the tonnage of any hundred of the
Whig and the Democratic party in a town, on the Dearborn balance, as
they passed the hayscales, you could predict with certainty which party
would carry it.  On the whole, it would be rather the speediest way of
deciding the vote, to put the selectmen or the mayor and aldermen at the

In science, we have to consider two things: power and circumstance.  All
we know of the egg, from each successive discovery, is, _another
vesicle_; and if, after five hundred years, you get a better observer,
or a better glass, he finds within the last observed another.  In
vegetable and animal tissue, it is just alike, and all that the primary
power or spasm operates, is, still, vesicles, vesicles.  Yes,—but the
tyrannical Circumstance!  A vesicle in new circumstances, a vesicle
lodged in darkness, Oken thought, became animal; in light, a plant.
Lodged in the parent animal, it suffers changes, which end in
unsheathing miraculous capability in the unaltered vesicle, and it
unlocks itself to fish, bird, or quadruped, head and foot, eye and claw.
The Circumstance is Nature.  Nature is, what you may do.  There is much
you may not.  We have two things,—the circumstance, and the life.  Once
we thought, positive power was all.  Now we learn, that negative power,
or circumstance, is half. Nature is the tyrannous circumstance, the
thick skull, the sheathed snake, the ponderous, rock-like jaw;
necessitated activity; violent direction; the conditions of a tool, like
the locomotive, strong enough on its track, but which can do nothing but
mischief off of it; or skates, which are wings on the ice, but fetters
on the ground.

The book of Nature is the book of Fate.  She turns the gigantic
pages,—leaf after leaf,—never re-turning one.  One leaf she lays down, a
floor of granite; then a thousand ages, and a bed of slate; a thousand
ages, and a measure of coal; a thousand ages, and a layer of marl and
mud: vegetable forms appear; her first misshapen animals, zoophyte,
trilobium, fish; then, saurians,—rude forms, in which she has only
blocked her future statue, concealing under these unwieldly monsters the
fine type of her coming king.  The face of the planet cools and dries,
the races meliorate, and man is born.  But when a race has lived its
term, it comes no more again.

The population of the world is a conditional population; not the best,
but the best that could live now; and the scale of tribes, and the
steadiness with which victory adheres to one tribe, and defeat to
another, is as uniform as the superposition of strata.  We know in
history what weight belongs to race.  We see the English, French, and
Germans planting themselves on every shore and market of America and
Australia, and monopolizing the commerce of these countries.  We like
the nervous and victorious habit of our own branch of the family. We
follow the step of the Jew, of the Indian, of the Negro.  We see how
much will has been expended to extinguish the Jew, in vain.  Look at the
unpalatable conclusions of Knox, in his "Fragment of Races,"—a rash and
unsatisfactory writer, but charged with pungent and unforgetable truths.
"Nature respects race, and not hybrids."  "Every race has its own
_habitat_."  "Detach a colony from the race, and it deteriorates to the
crab."  See the shades of the picture.  The German and Irish millions,
like the Negro, have a great deal of guano in their destiny.  They are
ferried over the Atlantic, and carted over America, to ditch and to
drudge, to make corn cheap, and then to lie down prematurely to make a
spot of green grass on the prairie. One more fagot of these adamantine
bandages, is, the new science of Statistics.  It is a rule, that the
most casual and extraordinary events—if the basis of population is broad
enough—become matter of fixed calculation.  It would not be safe to say
when a captain like Bonaparte, a singer like Jenny Lind, or a navigator
like Bowditch, would be born in Boston: but, on a population of twenty
or two hundred millions, something like accuracy may be had.¹

    ¹ "Everything which pertains to the human species, considered as a
      whole, belongs to the order of physical facts.  The greater the
      number of individuals, the more does the influence of the
      individual will disappear, leaving predominance to a series of
      general facts dependent on causes by which society exists, and is

’Tis frivolous to fix pedantically the date of particular inventions.
They have all been invented over and over fifty times.  Man is the arch
machine, of which all these shifts drawn from himself are toy models.
He helps himself on each emergency by copying or duplicating his own
structure, just so far as the need is.  ’Tis hard to find the right
Homer, Zoroaster, or Menu; harder still to find the Tubal Cain, or
Vulcan, or Cadmus, or Copernicus, or Fust, or Fulton, the indisputable
inventor.  There are scores and centuries of them. "The air is full of
men."  This kind of talent so abounds, this constructive tool-making
efficiency, as if it adhered to the chemic atoms, as if the air he
breathes were made of Vaucansons, Franklins, and Watts.

Doubtless, in every million there will be an astronomer, a
mathematician, a comic poet, a mystic. No one can read the history of
astronomy, without perceiving that Copernicus, Newton, Laplace, are not
new men, or a new kind of men, but that Thales, Anaximenes, Hipparchus,
Empedocles, Aristarchus, Pythagoras, Œnopides, had anticipated them;
each had the same tense geometrical brain, apt for the same vigorous
computation and logic, a mind parallel to the movement of the world.
The Roman mile probably rested on a measure of a degree of the meridian.
Mahometan and Chinese know what we know of leap-year, of the Gregorian
calendar, and of the precession of the equinoxes.  As, in every barrel
of cowries, brought to New Bedford, there shall be one _orangia_, so
there will, in a dozen millions of Malays and Mahometans, be one or two
astronomical skulls. In a large city, the most casual things, and things
whose beauty lies in their casualty, are produced as punctually and to
order as the baker’s muffin for breakfast.  Punch makes exactly one
capital joke a week; and the journals contrive to furnish one good piece
of news every day.

And not less work the laws of repression, the penalties of violated
functions.  Famine, typhus, frost, war, suicide, and effete races, must
be reckoned calculable parts of the system of the world.

These are pebbles from the mountain, hints of the terms by which our
life is walled up, and which show a kind of mechanical exactness, as of
a loom or mill, in what we call casual or fortuitous events.

The force with which we resist these torrents of tendency looks so
ridiculously inadequate, that it amounts to little more than a criticism
or a protest made by a minority of one, under compulsion of millions.  I
seemed, in the height of a tempest, to see men overboard struggling in
the waves, and driven about here and there.  They glanced intelligently
at each other, but ’twas little they could do for one another; ’twas
much if each could keep afloat alone.  Well, they had a right to their
eye-beams, and all the rest was Fate.

We cannot trifle with this reality, this cropping-out in our planted
gardens of the core of the world. No picture of life can have any
veracity that does not admit the odious facts.  A man’s power is hooped
in by a necessity, which, by many experiments, he touches on every side,
until he learns its arc.

The element running through entire nature, which we popularly call Fate,
is known to us as limitation.  Whatever limits us, we call Fate.  If we
are brute and barbarous, the fate takes a brute and dreadful shape.  As
we refine, our checks become finer.  If we rise to spiritual culture,
the antagonism takes a spiritual form.  In the Hindoo fables, Vishnu
follows Maya through all her ascending changes, from insect and crawfish
up to elephant; whatever form she took, he took the male form of that
kind, until she became at last woman and goddess, and he a man and a
god.  The limitations refine as the soul purifies, but the ring of
necessity is always perched at the top.

When the gods in the Norse heaven were unable to bind the Fenris Wolf
with steel or with weight of mountains,—the one he snapped and the other
he spurned with his heel,—they put round his foot a limp band softer
than silk or cobweb, and this held him: the more he spurned it, the
stiffer it drew.  So soft and so stanch is the ring of Fate. Neither
brandy, nor nectar, nor sulphuric ether, nor hell-fire, nor ichor, nor
poetry, nor genius, can get rid of this limp band.  For if we give it
the high sense in which the poets use it, even thought itself is not
above Fate: that too must act according to eternal laws, and all that is
wilful and fantastic in it is in opposition to its fundamental essence.

And, last of all, high over thought, in the world of morals, Fate
appears as vindicator, levelling the high, lifting the low, requiring
justice in man, and always striking soon or late, when justice is not
done.  What is useful will last; what is hurtful will sink.  "The doer
must suffer," said the Greeks: "you would soothe a Deity not to be
soothed."  "God himself cannot procure good for the wicked," said the
Welsh triad.  "God may consent, but only for a time," said the bard of
Spain.  The limitation is impassable by any insight of man.  In its last
and loftiest ascensions, insight itself, and the freedom of the will, is
one of its obedient members.  But we must not run into generalizations
too large, but show the natural bounds or essential distinctions, and
seek to do justice to the other elements as well.

Thus we trace Fate, in matter, mind, and morals,—in race, in
retardations of strata, and in thought and character as well.  It is
everywhere bound or limitation.  But Fate has its lord; limitation its
limits; is different seen from above and from below; from within and
from without.  For, though Fate is immense, so is power, which is the
other fact in the dual world, immense.  If Fate follows and limits
power, power attends and antagonizes Fate.  We must respect Fate as
natural history, but there is more than natural history. For who and
what is this criticism that pries into the matter?  Man is not order of
nature, sack and sack, belly and members, link in a chain, nor any
ignominious baggage, but a stupendous antagonism, a dragging together of
the poles of the Universe.  He betrays his relation to what is below
him,—thick-skulled, small-brained, fishy, quadrumanous,—quadruped
ill-disguised, hardly escaped into biped, and has paid for the new
powers by loss of some of the old ones.  But the lightning which
explodes and fashions planets, maker of planets and suns, is in him.  On
one side, elemental order, sandstone and granite, rock-ledges, peat-bog,
forest, sea and shore; and, on the other part, thought, the spirit which
composes and decomposes nature,—here they are, side by side, god and
devil, mind and matter, king and conspirator, belt and spasm, riding
peacefully together in the eye and brain of every man.

Nor can he blink the freewill.  To hazard the contradiction,—freedom is
necessary.  If you please to plant yourself on the side of Fate, and
say, Fate is all; then we say, a part of Fate is the freedom of man.
Forever wells up the impulse of choosing and acting in the soul.
Intellect annuls Fate.  So far as a man thinks, he is free.  And though
nothing is more disgusting than the crowing about liberty by slaves, as
most men are, and the flippant mistaking for freedom of some paper
preamble like a "Declaration of Independence," or the statute right to
vote, by those who have never dared to think or to act, yet it is
wholesome to man to look not at Fate, but the other way: the practical
view is the other.  His sound relation to these facts is to use and
command, not to cringe to them.  "Look not on nature, for her name is
fatal," said the oracle.  The too much contemplation of these limits
induces meanness.  They who talk much of destiny, their birth-star, &c.,
are in a lower dangerous plane, and invite the evils they fear.

I cited the instinctive and heroic races as proud believers in Destiny.
They conspire with it; a loving resignation is with the event.  But the
dogma makes a different impression, when it is held by the weak and
lazy.  ’Tis weak and vicious people who cast the blame on Fate.  The
right use of Fate is to bring up our conduct to the loftiness of nature.
Rude and invincible except by themselves are the elements.  So let man
be.  Let him empty his breast of his windy conceits, and show his
lordship by manners and deeds on the scale of nature.  Let him hold his
purpose as with the tug of gravitation.  No power, no persuasion, no
bribe shall make him give up his point.  A man ought to compare
advantageously with a river, an oak, or a mountain.  He shall have not
less the flow, the expansion, and the resistance of these.

’Tis the best use of Fate to teach a fatal courage. Go face the fire at
sea, or the cholera in your friend’s house, or the burglar in your own,
or what danger lies in the way of duty, knowing you are guarded by the
cherubim of Destiny.  If you believe in Fate to your harm, believe it,
at least, for your good.

For, if Fate is so prevailing, man also is part of it, and can confront
fate with fate.  If the Universe have these savage accidents, our atoms
are as savage in resistance.  We should be crushed by the atmosphere,
but for the reaction of the air within the body.  A tube made of a film
of glass can resist the shock of the ocean, if filled with the same
water.  If there be omnipotence in the stroke, there is omnipotence of

1. But Fate against Fate is only parrying and defence: there are, also,
the noble creative forces. The revelation of Thought takes man out of
servitude into freedom.  We rightly say of ourselves, we were born, and
afterward we were born again, and many times.  We have successive
experiences so important, that the new forgets the old, and hence the
mythology of the seven or the nine heavens.  The day of days, the great
day of the feast of life, is that in which the inward eye opens to the
Unity in things, to the omnipresence of law;—sees that what is must be,
and ought to be, or is the best.  This beatitude dips from on high down
on us, and we see.  It is not in us so much as we are in it.  If the air
come to our lungs, we breathe and live; if not, we die.  If the light
come to our eyes, we see; else not.  And if truth come to our mind, we
suddenly expand to its dimensions, as if we grew to worlds.  We are as
lawgivers; we speak for Nature; we prophesy and divine.

This insight throws us on the party and interest of the Universe,
against all and sundry; against ourselves, as much as others.  A man
speaking from insight affirms of himself what is true of the mind:
seeing its immortality, he says, I am immortal; seeing its
invincibility, he says, I am strong.  It is not in us, but we are in it.
It is of the maker, not of what is made.  All things are touched and
changed by it.  This uses, and is not used.  It distances those who
share it, from those who share it not.  Those who share it not are
flocks and herds.  It dates from itself;—not from former men or better
men,—gospel, or constitution, or college, or custom.  Where it shines,
Nature is no longer intrusive, but all things make a musical or
pictorial impression.  The world of men show like a comedy without
laughter:—populations, interests, government, history;—’tis all toy
figures in a toy house.  It does not overvalue particular truths.  We
hear eagerly every thought and word quoted from an intellectual man.
But, in his presence, our own mind is roused to activity, and we forget
very fast what he says, much more interested in the new play of our own
thought, than in any thought of his.  ’Tis the majesty into which we
have suddenly mounted, the impersonality, the scorn of egotisms, the
sphere of laws, that engage us.  Once we were stepping a little this
way, and a little that way; now, we are as men in a balloon, and do not
think so much of the point we have left, or the point we would make, as
of the liberty and glory of the way.

Just as much intellect as you add, so much organic power.  He who sees
through the design, presides over it, and must will that which must be.
We sit and rule, and, though we sleep, our dream will come to pass.  Our
thought, though it were only an hour old, affirms an oldest necessity,
not to be separated from thought, and not to be separated from will.
They must always have coexisted.  It apprises us of its sovereignty and
godhead, which refuse to be severed from it.  It is not mine or thine,
but the will of all mind.  It is poured into the souls of all men, as
the soul itself which constitutes them men.  I know not whether there
be, as is alleged, in the upper region of our atmosphere, a permanent
westerly current, which carries with it all atoms which rise to that
height, but I see, that when souls reach a certain clearness of
perception, they accept a knowledge and motive above selfishness. A
breath of will blows eternally through the universe of souls in the
direction of the Right and Necessary.  It is the air which all
intellects inhale and exhale, and it is the wind which blows the worlds
into order and orbit.

Thought dissolves the material universe, by carrying the mind up into a
sphere where all is plastic. Of two men, each obeying his own thought,
he whose thought is deepest will be the strongest character.  Always one
man more than another represents the will of Divine Providence to the

2. If thought makes free, so does the moral sentiment.  The mixtures of
spiritual chemistry refuse to be analyzed.  Yet we can see that with the
perception of truth is joined the desire that it shall prevail.  That
affection is essential to will. Moreover, when a strong will appears, it
usually results from a certain unity of organization, as if the whole
energy of body and mind flowed in one direction. All great force is real
and elemental.  There is no manufacturing a strong will.  There must be
a pound to balance a pound.  Where power is shown in will, it must rest
on the universal force.  Alaric and Bonaparte must believe they rest on
a truth, or their will can be bought or bent.  There is a bribe possible
for any finite will.  But the pure sympathy with universal ends is an
infinite force, and cannot be bribed or bent.  Whoever has had
experience of the moral sentiment cannot choose but believe in unlimited
power.  Each pulse from that heart is an oath from the Most High.  I
know not what the word _sublime_ means, if it be not the intimations in
this infant of a terrific force.  A text of heroism, a name and anecdote
of courage, are not arguments, but sallies of freedom.  One of these is
the verse of the Persian Hafiz, "’Tis written on the gate of Heaven, ’Wo
unto him who suffers himself to be betrayed by Fate!’"  Does the reading
of history make us fatalists?  What courage does not the opposite
opinion show!  A little whim of will to be free gallantly contending
against the universe of chemistry.

But insight is not will, nor is affection will. Perception is cold, and
goodness dies in wishes; as Voltaire said, ’tis the misfortune of worthy
people that they are cowards; "_un des plus grands malheurs des honnêtes
gens c’est qu’ils sont des lâches_." There must be a fusion of these two
to generate the energy of will.  There can be no driving force, except
through the conversion of the man into his will, making him the will,
and the will him.  And one may say boldly, that no man has a right
perception of any truth, who has not been reacted on by it, so as to be
ready to be its martyr.

The one serious and formidable thing in nature is a will.  Society is
servile from want of will, and therefore the world wants saviours and
religions. One way is right to go: the hero sees it, and moves on that
aim, and has the world under him for root and support.  He is to others
as the world. His approbation is honor; his dissent, infamy.  The glance
of his eye has the force of sunbeams.  A personal influence towers up in
memory only worthy, and we gladly forget numbers, money, climate,
gravitation, and the rest of Fate.

We can afford to allow the limitation, if we know it is the meter of the
growing man.  We stand against Fate, as children stand up against the
wall in their father’s house, and notch their height from year to year.
But when the boy grows to man, and is master of the house, he pulls down
that wall, and builds a new and bigger.  ’Tis only a question of time.
Every brave youth is in training to ride and rule this dragon.  His
science is to make weapons and wings of these passions and retarding
forces. Now whether, seeing these two things, fate and power, we are
permitted to believe in unity?  The bulk of mankind believe in two gods.
They are under one dominion here in the house, as friend and parent, in
social circles, in letters, in art, in love, in religion: but in
mechanics, in dealing with steam and climate, in trade, in politics,
they think they come under another; and that it would be a practical
blunder to transfer the method and way of working of one sphere, into
the other.  What good, honest, generous men at home, will be wolves and
foxes on change!  What pious men in the parlor will vote for what
reprobates at the polls!  To a certain point, they believe themselves
the care of a Providence.  But, in a steamboat, in an epidemic, in war,
they believe a malignant energy rules.

But relation and connection are not somewhere and sometimes, but
everywhere and always.  The divine order does not stop where their sight
stops. The friendly power works on the same rules, in the next farm, and
the next planet.  But, where they have not experience, they run against
it, and hurt themselves.  Fate, then, is a name for facts not yet passed
under the fire of thought;—for causes which are impenetrated.

But every jet of chaos which threatens to exterminate us, is convertible
by intellect into wholesome force.  Fate is unpenetrated causes.  The
water drowns ship and sailor, like a grain of dust.  But learn to swim,
trim your bark, and the wave which drowned it, will be cloven by it, and
carry it, like its own foam, a plume and a power.  The cold is
inconsiderate of persons, tingles your blood, freezes a man like a
dew-drop.  But learn to skate, and the ice will give you a graceful,
sweet, and poetic motion.  The cold will brace your limbs and brain to
genius, and make you foremost men of time. Cold and sea will train an
imperial Saxon race, which nature cannot bear to lose, and, after
cooping it up for a thousand years in yonder England, gives a hundred
Englands, a hundred Mexicos.  All the bloods it shall absorb and
domineer: and more than Mexicos,—the secrets of water and steam, the
spasms of electricity, the ductility of metals, the chariot of the air,
the ruddered balloon are awaiting you.

The annual slaughter from typhus far exceeds that of war; but right
drainage destroys typhus. The plague in the sea-service from scurvy is
healed by lemon juice and other diets portable or procurable: the
depopulation by cholera and small-pox is ended by drainage and
vaccination; and every other pest is not less in the chain of cause and
effect, and may be fought off.  And, whilst art draws out the venom, it
commonly extorts some benefit from the vanquished enemy.  The
mischievous torrent is taught to drudge for man: the wild beasts he
makes useful for food, or dress, or labor; the chemic explosions are
controlled like his watch.  These are now the steeds on which he rides.
Man moves in all modes, by legs of horses, by wings of wind, by steam,
by gas of balloon, by electricity, and stands on tiptoe threatening to
hunt the eagle in his own element.  There’s nothing he will not make his

Steam was, till the other day, the devil which we dreaded.  Every pot
made by any human potter or brazier had a hole in its cover, to let off
the enemy, lest he should lift pot and roof, and carry the house away.
But the Marquis of Worcester, Watt, and Fulton bethought themselves,
that, where was power, was not devil, but was God; that it must be
availed of, and not by any means let off and wasted. Could he lift pots
and roofs and houses so handily? he was the workman they were in search
of.  He could be used to lift away, chain, and compel other devils, far
more reluctant and dangerous, namely, cubic miles of earth, mountains,
weight or resistance of water, machinery, and the labors of all men in
the world; and time he shall lengthen, and shorten space.

It has not fared much otherwise with higher kinds of steam.  The opinion
of the million was the terror of the world, and it was attempted, either
to dissipate it, by amusing nations, or to pile it over with strata of
society,—a layer of soldiers; over that, a layer of lords; and a king on
the top; with clamps and hoops of castles, garrisons, and police.  But,
sometimes, the religious principle would get in, and burst the hoops,
and rive every mountain laid on top of it.  The Fultons and Watts of
politics, believing in unity, saw that it was a power, and, by
satisfying it, (as justice satisfies everybody,) through a different
disposition of society,—grouping it on a level, instead of piling it
into a mountain,—they have contrived to make of this terror the most
harmless and energetic form of a State.

Very odious, I confess, are the lessons of Fate. Who likes to have a
dapper phrenologist pronouncing on his fortunes?  Who likes to believe
that he has hidden in his skull, spine, and pelvis, all the vices of a
Saxon or Celtic race, which will be sure to pull him down,—with what
grandeur of hope and resolve he is fired,—into a selfish, huckstering,
servile, dodging animal?  A learned physician tells us, the fact is
invariable with the Neapolitan, that, when mature, he assumes the forms
of the unmistakable scoundrel.  That is a little overstated,—but may

But these are magazines and arsenals.  A man must thank his defects, and
stand in some terror of his talents.  A transcendent talent draws so
largely on his forces, as to lame him; a defect pays him revenues on the
other side.  The sufferance, which is the badge of the Jew, has made
him, in these days, the ruler of the rulers of the earth. If Fate is ore
and quarry, if evil is good in the making, if limitation is power that
shall be, if calamities, oppositions, and weights are wings and
means,—we are reconciled.

Fate involves the melioration.  No statement of the Universe can have
any soundness, which does not admit its ascending effort.  The direction
of the whole, and of the parts, is toward benefit, and in proportion to
the health.  Behind every individual, closes organization: before him,
opens liberty,—the Better, the Best.  The first and worst races are
dead.  The second and imperfect races are dying out, or remain for the
maturing of higher.  In the latest race, in man, every generosity, every
new perception, the love and praise he extorts from his fellows, are
certificates of advance out of fate into freedom.  Liberation of the
will from the sheaths and clogs of organization which he has outgrown,
is the end and aim of this world.  Every calamity is a spur and valuable
hint; and where his endeavors do not yet fully avail, they tell as
tendency. The whole circle of animal life,—tooth against
tooth,—devouring war, war for food, a yelp of pain and a grunt of
triumph, until, at last, the whole menagerie, the whole chemical mass is
mellowed and refined for higher use,—pleases at a sufficient

But to see how fate slides into freedom, and freedom into fate, observe
how far the roots of every creature run, or find, if you can, a point
where there is no thread of connection.  Our life is consentaneous and
far-related.  This knot of nature is so well tied, that nobody was ever
cunning enough to find the two ends.  Nature is intricate, overlapped,
interweaved, and endless.  Christopher Wren said of the beautiful King’s
College chapel, "that, if anybody would tell him where to lay the first
stone, he would build such another."  But where shall we find the first
atom in this house of man, which is all consent, inosculation, and
balance of parts?

The web of relation is shown in _habitat_, shown in hybernation.  When
hybernation was observed, it was found, that, whilst some animals became
torpid in winter, others were torpid in summer: hybernation then was a
false name.  The _long sleep_ is not an effect of cold, but is regulated
by the supply of food proper to the animal.  It becomes torpid when the
fruit or prey it lives on is not in season, and regains its activity
when its food is ready.

Eyes are found in light; ears in auricular air; feet on land; fins in
water; wings in air; and, each creature where it was meant to be, with a
mutual fitness.  Every zone has its own Fauna. There is adjustment
between the animal and its food, its parasite, its enemy.  Balances are
kept. It is not allowed to diminish in numbers, nor to exceed.  The like
adjustments exist for man.  His food is cooked, when he arrives; his
coal in the pit; the house ventilated; the mud of the deluge dried; his
companions arrived at the same hour, and awaiting him with love,
concert, laughter, and tears. These are coarse adjustments, but the
invisible are not less.  There are more belongings to every creature
than his air and his food.  His instincts must be met, and he has
predisposing power that bends and fits what is near him to his use.  He
is not possible until the invisible things are right for him, as well as
the visible.  Of what changes, then, in sky and earth, and in finer
skies and earths, does the appearance of some Dante or Columbus apprise

How is this effected?  Nature is no spendthrift, but takes the shortest
way to her ends.  As the general says to his soldiers, "if you want a
fort, build a fort," so nature makes every creature do its own work and
get its living,—is it planet, animal, or tree.  The planet makes itself.
The animal cell makes itself;—then, what it wants.  Every creature,—wren
or dragon,—shall make its own lair. As soon as there is life, there is
self-direction, and absorbing and using of material.  Life is
freedom,—life in the direct ratio of its amount.  You may be sure, the
new-born man is not inert.  Life works both voluntarily and
supernaturally in its neighborhood. Do you suppose, he can be estimated
by his weight in pounds, or, that he is contained in his skin,—this
reaching, radiating, jaculating fellow? The smallest candle fills a mile
with its rays, and the papillæ of a man run out to every star.

When there is something to be done, the world knows how to get it done.
The vegetable eye makes leaf, pericarp, root, bark, or thorn, as the
need is; the first cell converts itself into stomach, mouth, nose, or
nail, according to the want: the world throws its life into a hero or a
shepherd; and puts him where he is wanted.  Dante and Columbus were
Italians, in their time: they would be Russians or Americans to-day.
Things ripen, new men come.  The adaptation is not capricious.  The
ulterior aim, the purpose beyond itself, the correlation by which
planets subside and crystallize, then animate beasts and men, will not
stop, but will work into finer particulars, and from finer to finest.

The secret of the world is, the tie between person and event.  Person
makes event, and event person. The "times," "the age," what is that, but
a few profound persons and a few active persons who epitomize the
times?—Goethe, Hegel, Metternich, Adams, Calhoun, Guizot, Peel, Cobden,
Kossuth, Rothschild, Astor, Brunel, and the rest.  The same fitness must
be presumed between a man and the time and event, as between the sexes,
or between a race of animals and the food it eats, or the inferior races
it uses.  He thinks his fate alien, because the copula is hidden.  But
the soul contains the event that shall befall it, for the event is only
the actualization of its thoughts; and what we pray to ourselves for is
always granted.  The event is the print of your form.  It fits you like
your skin.  What each does is proper to him.  Events are the children of
his body and mind.  We learn that the soul of Fate is the soul of us, as
Hafiz sings,

    Alas! till now I had not known,
    My guide and fortune’s guide are one.

All the toys that infatuate men, and which they play for,—houses, land,
money, luxury, power, fame, are the selfsame thing, with a new gauze or
two of illusion overlaid.  And of all the drums and rattles by which men
are made willing to have their heads broke, and are led out solemnly
every morning to parade,—the most admirable is this by which we are
brought to believe that events are arbitrary, and independent of
actions.  At the conjuror’s, we detect the hair by which he moves his
puppet, but we have not eyes sharp enough to descry the thread that ties
cause and effect.

Nature magically suits the man to his fortunes, by making these the
fruit of his character.  Ducks take to the water, eagles to the sky,
waders to the sea margin, hunters to the forest, clerks to
counting-rooms, soldiers to the frontier.  Thus events grow on the same
stem with persons; are sub-persons. The pleasure of life is according to
the man that lives it, and not according to the work or the place. Life
is an ecstasy.  We know what madness belongs to love,—what power to
paint a vile object in hues of heaven.  As insane persons are
indifferent to their dress, diet, and other accommodations, and, as we
do in dreams, with equanimity, the most absurd acts, so, a drop more of
wine in our cup of life will reconcile us to strange company and work.
Each creature puts forth from itself its own condition and sphere, as
the slug sweats out its slimy house on the pear-leaf, and the woolly
aphides on the apple perspire their own bed, and the fish its shell.  In
youth, we clothe ourselves with rainbows, and go as brave as the zodiac.
In age, we put out another sort of perspiration,—gout, fever,
rheumatism, caprice, doubt, fretting, and avarice.

A man’s fortunes are the fruit of his character. A man’s friends are his
magnetisms.  We go to Herodotus and Plutarch for examples of Fate; but
we are examples.  "_Quisque suos patimur manes_."  The tendency of every
man to enact all that is in his constitution is expressed in the old
belief, that the efforts which we make to escape from our destiny only
serve to lead us into it: and I have noticed, a man likes better to be
complimented on his position, as the proof of the last or total
excellence, than on his merits.

A man will see his character emitted in the events that seem to meet,
but which exude from and accompany him.  Events expand with the
character.  As once he found himself among toys, so now he plays a part
in colossal systems, and his growth is declared in his ambition, his
companions, and his performance.  He looks like a piece of luck, but is
a piece of causation;—the mosaic, angulated and ground to fit into the
gap he fills.  Hence in each town there is some man who is, in his brain
and performance, an explanation of the tillage, production, factories,
banks, churches, ways of living, and society, of that town.  If you do
not chance to meet him, all that you see will leave you a little
puzzled: if you see him, it will become plain.  We know in Massachusetts
who built New Bedford, who built Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, Clinton,
Fitchburg, Holyoke, Portland, and many another noisy mart.  Each of
these men, if they were transparent, would seem to you not so much men,
as walking cities, and, wherever you put them, they would build one.

History is the action and reaction of these two,—Nature and Thought;—two
boys pushing each other on the curb-stone of the pavement. Everything is
pusher or pushed: and matter and mind are in perpetual tilt and balance,
so.  Whilst the man is weak, the earth takes up him.  He plants his
brain and affections.  By and by he will take up the earth, and have his
gardens and vineyards in the beautiful order and productiveness of his
thought.  Every solid in the universe is ready to become fluid on the
approach of the mind, and the power to flux it is the measure of the
mind.  If the wall remain adamant, it accuses the want of thought.  To a
subtler force, it will stream into new forms, expressive of the
character of the mind. What is the city in which we sit here, but an
aggregate of incongruous materials, which have obeyed the will of some
man?  The granite was reluctant, but his hands were stronger, and it
came.  Iron was deep in the ground, and well combined with stone; but
could not hide from his fires.  Wood, lime, stuffs, fruits, gums, were
dispersed over the earth and sea, in vain.  Here they are, within reach
of every man’s day-labor,—what he wants of them. The whole world is the
flux of matter over the wires of thought to the poles or points where it
would build.  The races of men rise out of the ground preoccupied with a
thought which rules them, and divided into parties ready armed and angry
to fight for this metaphysical abstraction. The quality of the thought
differences the Egyptian and the Roman, the Austrian and the American.
The men who come on the stage at one period are all found to be related
to each other. Certain ideas are in the air.  We are all impressionable,
for we are made of them; all impressionable, but some more than others,
and these first express them.  This explains the curious
contemporaneousness of inventions and discoveries.  The truth is in the
air, and the most impressionable brain will announce it first, but all
will announce it a few minutes later.  So women, as most susceptible,
are the best index of the coming hour. So the great man, that is, the
man most imbued with the spirit of the time, is the impressionable
man,—of a fibre irritable and delicate, like iodine to light.  He feels
the infinitesimal attractions. His mind is righter than others, because
he yields to a current so feeble as can be felt only by a needle
delicately poised.

The correlation is shown in defects.  Möller, in his Essay on
Architecture, taught that the building which was fitted accurately to
answer its end, would turn out to be beautiful, though beauty had not
been intended.  I find the like unity in human structures rather
virulent and pervasive; that a crudity in the blood will appear in the
argument; a hump in the shoulder will appear in the speech and
handiwork.  If his mind could be seen, the hump would be seen.  If a man
has a seesaw in his voice, it will run into his sentences, into his
poem, into the structure of his fable, into his speculation, into his
charity.  And, as every man is hunted by his own dæmon, vexed by his own
disease, this checks all his activity.

So each man, like each plant, has his parasites. A strong, astringent,
bilious nature has more truculent enemies than the slugs and moths that
fret my leaves.  Such an one has curculios, borers, knife-worms: a
swindler ate him first, then a client, then a quack, then smooth,
plausible gentlemen, bitter and selfish as Moloch.

This correlation really existing can be divined. If the threads are
there, thought can follow and show them.  Especially when a soul is
quick and docile; as Chaucer sings,

    "Or if the soul of proper kind
    Be so perfect as men find,
    That it wot what is to come,
    And that he warneth all and some
    Of every of their aventures,
    By previsions or figures;
    But that our flesh hath not might
    It to understand aright
    For it is warned too darkly."—

Some people are made up of rhyme, coincidence, omen, periodicity, and
presage: they meet the person they seek; what their companion prepares
to say to them, they first say to him; and a hundred signs apprise them
of what is about to befall.

Wonderful intricacy in the web, wonderful constancy in the design this
vagabond life admits.  We wonder how the fly finds its mate, and yet
year after year we find two men, two women, without legal or carnal tie,
spend a great part of their best time within a few feet of each other.
And the moral is, that what we seek we shall find; what we flee from
flees from us; as Goethe said, "what we wish for in youth, comes in
heaps on us in old age," too often cursed with the granting of our
prayer: and hence the high caution, that, since we are sure of having
what we wish, we beware to ask only for high things.

One key, one solution to the mysteries of human condition, one solution
to the old knots of fate, freedom, and foreknowledge, exists, the
propounding, namely, of the double consciousness.  A man must ride
alternately on the horses of his private and his public nature, as the
equestrians in the circus throw themselves nimbly from horse to horse,
or plant one foot on the back of one, and the other foot on the back of
the other.  So when a man is the victim of his fate, has sciatica in his
loins, and cramp in his mind; a club-foot and a club in his wit; a sour
face, and a selfish temper; a strut in his gait, and a conceit in his
affection; or is ground to powder by the vice of his race; he is to
rally on his relation to the Universe, which his ruin benefits. Leaving
the dæmon who suffers, he is to take sides with the Deity who secures
universal benefit by his pain.

To offset the drag of temperament and race, which pulls down, learn this
lesson, namely, that by the cunning co-presence of two elements, which
is throughout nature, whatever lames or paralyzes you, draws in with it
the divinity, in some form, to repay.  A good intention clothes itself
with sudden power.  When a god wishes to ride, any chip or pebble will
bud and shoot out winged feet, and serve him for a horse.

Let us build altars to the Blessed Unity which holds nature and souls in
perfect solution, and compels every atom to serve an universal end.  I
do not wonder at a snow-flake, a shell, a summer landscape, or the glory
of the stars; but at the necessity of beauty under which the universe
lies; that all is and must be pictorial; that the rainbow, and the curve
of the horizon, and the arch of the blue vault are only results from the
organism of the eye. There is no need for foolish amateurs to fetch me
to admire a garden of flowers, or a sun-gilt cloud, or a waterfall, when
I cannot look without seeing splendor and grace.  How idle to choose a
random sparkle here or there, when the indwelling necessity plants the
rose of beauty on the brow of chaos, and discloses the central intention
of Nature to be harmony and joy.

Let us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity. If we thought men were
free in the sense, that, in a single exception one fantastical will
could prevail over the law of things, it were all one as if a child’s
hand could pull down the sun.  If, in the least particular, one could
derange the order of nature,—who would accept the gift of life?

Let us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity, which secures that all
is made of one piece; that plaintiff and defendant, friend and enemy,
animal and planet, food and eater, are of one kind.  In astronomy, is
vast space, but no foreign system; in geology, vast time, but the same
laws as to-day. Why should we be afraid of Nature, which is no other
than "philosophy and theology embodied"? Why should we fear to be
crushed by savage elements, we who are made up of the same elements? Let
us build to the Beautiful Necessity, which makes man brave in believing
that he cannot shun a danger that is appointed, nor incur one that is
not; to the Necessity which rudely or softly educates him to the
perception that there are no contingencies; that Law rules throughout
existence, a Law which is not intelligent but intelligence,—not personal
nor impersonal,—it disdains words and passes understanding; it dissolves
persons; it vivifies nature; yet solicits the pure in heart to draw on
all its omnipotence.



    His tongue was framed to music,
    And his hand was armed with skill,
    His face was the mould of beauty,
    And his heart the throne of will.


There is not yet any inventory of a man’s faculties, any more than a
bible of his opinions.  Who shall set a limit to the influence of a
human being? There are men, who, by their sympathetic attractions, carry
nations with them, and lead the activity of the human race.  And if
there be such a tie, that, wherever the mind of man goes, nature will
accompany him, perhaps there are men whose magnetisms are of that force
to draw material and elemental powers, and, where they appear, immense
instrumentalities organize around them.  Life is a search after power;
and this is an element with which the world is so saturated,—there is no
chink or crevice in which it is not lodged,—that no honest seeking goes
unrewarded.  A man should prize events and possessions as the ore in
which this fine mineral is found; and he can well afford to let events
and possessions, and the breath of the body go, if their value has been
added to him in the shape of power.  If he have secured the elixir, he
can spare the wide gardens from which it was distilled. A cultivated
man, wise to know and bold to perform, is the end to which nature works,
and the education of the will is the flowering and result of all this
geology and astronomy.

All successful men have agreed in one thing,—they were _causationists_.
They believed that things went not by luck, but by law; that there was
not a weak or a cracked link in the chain that joins the first and last
of things.  A belief in causality, or strict connection between every
trifle and the principle of being, and, in consequence, belief in
compensation, or, that nothing is got for nothing,—characterizes all
valuable minds, and must control every effort that is made by an
industrious one. The most valiant men are the best believers in the
tension of the laws.  "All the great captains," said Bonaparte, "have
performed vast achievements by conforming with the rules of the art,—by
adjusting efforts to obstacles."

The key to the age may be this, or that, or the other, as the young
orators describe;—the key to all ages is—Imbecility; imbecility in the
vast majority of men, at all times, and, even in heroes, in all but
certain eminent moments; victims of gravity, custom, and fear.  This
gives force to the strong,—that the multitude have no habit of
self-reliance or original action.

We must reckon success a constitutional trait. Courage,—the old
physicians taught, (and their meaning holds, if their physiology is a
little mythical,)—courage, or the degree of life, is as the degree of
circulation of the blood in the arteries. "During passion, anger, fury,
trials of strength, wrestling, fighting, a large amount of blood is
collected in the arteries, the maintenance of bodily strength requiring
it, and but little is sent into the veins.  This condition is constant
with intrepid persons."  Where the arteries hold their blood, is courage
and adventure possible.  Where they pour it unrestrained into the veins,
the spirit is low and feeble.  For performance of great mark, it needs
extraordinary health.  If Eric is in robust health, and has slept well,
and is at the top of his condition, and thirty years old, at his
departure from Greenland, he will steer west, and his ships will reach
Newfoundland.  But take out Eric, and put in a stronger and bolder
man,—Biorn, or Thorfin,—and the ships will, with just as much ease, sail
six hundred, one thousand, fifteen hundred miles further, and reach
Labrador and New England.  There is no chance in results.  With adults,
as with children, one class enter cordially into the game, and whirl
with the whirling world; the others have cold hands, and remain
bystanders; or are only dragged in by the humor and vivacity of those
who can carry a dead weight.  The first wealth is health.  Sickness is
poor-spirited, and cannot serve any one: it must husband its resources
to live.  But health or fulness answers its own ends, and has to spare,
runs over, and inundates the neighborhoods and creeks of other men’s

All power is of one kind, a sharing of the nature of the world.  The
mind that is parallel with the laws of nature will be in the current of
events, and strong with their strength.  One man is made of the same
stuff of which events are made; is in sympathy with the course of
things; can predict it. Whatever befalls, befalls him first; so that he
is equal to whatever shall happen.  A man who knows men, can talk well
on politics, trade, law, war, religion.  For, everywhere, men are led in
the same manners.

The advantage of a strong pulse is not to be supplied by any labor, art,
or concert.  It is like the climate, which easily rears a crop, which no
glass, or irrigation, or tillage, or manures, can elsewhere rival.  It
is like the opportunity of a city like New York, or Constantinople,
which needs no diplomacy to force capital or genius or labor to it.
They come of themselves, as the waters flow to it.  So a broad, healthy,
massive understanding seems to lie on the shore of unseen rivers, of
unseen oceans, which are covered with barks, that, night and day, are
drifted to this point.  That is poured into its lap, which other men lie
plotting for.  It is in everybody’s secret; anticipates everybody’s
discovery; and if it do not command every fact of the genius and the
scholar, it is because it is large and sluggish, and does not think them
worth the exertion which you do.

This affirmative force is in one, and is not in another, as one horse
has the spring in him, and another in the whip.  "On the neck of the
young man," said Hafiz, "sparkles no gem so gracious as enterprise."
Import into any stationary district, as into an old Dutch population in
New York or Pennsylvania, or among the planters of Virginia, a colony of
hardy Yankees, with seething brains, heads full of steam-hammer, pulley,
crank, and toothed wheel,—and everything begins to shine with values.
What enhancement to all the water and land in England, is the arrival of
James Watt or Brunel!  In every company, there is not only the active
and passive sex, but, in both men and women, a deeper and more important
_sex of mind_, namely, the inventive or creative class of both men and
women, and the uninventive or accepting class. Each _plus_ man
represents his set, and, if he have the accidental advantage of personal
ascendency,—which implies neither more nor less of talent, but merely
the temperamental or taming eye of a soldier or a schoolmaster, (which
one has, and one has not, as one has a black moustache and one a blond,)
then quite easily and without envy or resistance, all his coadjutors and
feeders will admit his right to absorb them.  The merchant works by
book-keeper and cashier; the lawyer’s authorities are hunted up by
clerks; the geologist reports the surveys of his subalterns; Commander
Wilkes appropriates the results of all the naturalists attached to the
Expedition; Thorwaldsen’s statue is finished by stone-cutters; Dumas has
journeymen; and Shakspeare was theatre-manager, and used the labor of
many young men, as well as the playbooks.

There is always room for a man of force, and he makes room for many.
Society is a troop of thinkers, and the best heads among them take the
best places.  A feeble man can see the farms that are fenced and tilled,
the houses that are built. The strong man sees the possible houses and
farms. His eye makes estates, as fast as the sun breeds clouds.

When a new boy comes into school, when a man travels, and encounters
strangers every day, or, when into any old club a new comer is
domesticated, that happens which befalls, when a strange ox is driven
into a pen or pasture where cattle are kept; there is at once a trial of
strength between the best pair of horns and the new comer, and it is
settled thenceforth which is the leader.  So now, there is a measuring
of strength, very courteous, but decisive, and an acquiescence
thenceforward when these two meet.  Each reads his fate in the other’s
eyes.  The weaker party finds, that none of his information or wit quite
fits the occasion. He thought he knew this or that: he finds that he
omitted to learn the end of it.  Nothing that he knows will quite hit
the mark, whilst all the rival’s arrows are good, and well thrown.  But
if he knew all the facts in the encyclopædia, it would not help him: for
this is an affair of presence of mind, of attitude, of aplomb: the
opponent has the sun and wind, and, in every cast, the choice of weapon
and mark; and, when he himself is matched with some other antagonist,
his own shafts fly well and hit. ’Tis a question of stomach and
constitution.  The second man is as good as the first,—perhaps better;
but has not stoutness or stomach, as the first has, and so his wit seems
over-fine or under-fine.

Health is good,—power, life, that resists disease, poison, and all
enemies, and is conservative, as well as creative.  Here is question,
every spring, whether to graft with wax, or whether with clay; whether
to whitewash or to potash, or to prune; but the one point is the thrifty
tree.  A good tree, that agrees with the soil, will grow in spite of
blight, or bug, or pruning, or neglect, by night and by day, in all
weathers and all treatments.  Vivacity, leadership, must be had, and we
are not allowed to be nice in choosing.  We must fetch the pump with
dirty water, if clean cannot be had.  If we will make bread, we must
have contagion, yeast, emptyings, or what not, to induce fermentation
into the dough: as the torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost, by
virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine.  And we
have a certain instinct, that where is great amount of life, though
gross and peccant, it has its own checks and purifications, and will be
found at last in harmony with moral laws.

We watch in children with pathetic interest, the degree in which they
possess recuperative force. When they are hurt by us, or by each other,
or go to the bottom of the class, or miss the annual prizes, or are
beaten in the game,—if they lose heart, and remember the mischance in
their chamber at home, they have a serious check.  But if they have the
buoyancy and resistance that preoccupies them with new interest in the
new moment,—the wounds cicatrize, and the fibre is the tougher for the

One comes to value this _plus_ health, when he sees that all
difficulties vanish before it.  A timid man listening to the alarmists
in Congress, and in the newspapers, and observing the profligacy of
party,—sectional interests urged with a fury which shuts its eyes to
consequences, with a mind made up to desperate extremities, ballot in
one hand, and rifle in the other,—might easily believe that he and his
country have seen their best days, and he hardens himself the best he
can against the coming ruin.  But, after this has been foretold with
equal confidence fifty times, and government six per cents have not
declined a quarter of a mill, he discovers that the enormous elements of
strength which are here in play, make our politics unimportant.
Personal power, freedom, and the resources of nature strain every
faculty of every citizen.  We prosper with such vigor, that, like
thrifty trees, which grow in spite of ice, lice, mice, and borers, so we
do not suffer from the profligate swarms that fatten on the national
treasury.  The huge animals nourish huge parasites, and the rancor of
the disease attests the strength of the constitution.  The same energy
in the Greek _Demos_ drew the remark, that the evils of popular
government appear greater than they are; there is compensation for them
in the spirit and energy it awakens. The rough and ready style which
belongs to a people of sailors, foresters, farmers, and mechanics, has
its advantages.  Power educates the potentate. As long as our people
quote English standards they dwarf their own proportions.  A Western
lawyer of eminence said to me he wished it were a penal offence to bring
an English law-book into a court in this country, so pernicious had he
found in his experience our deference to English precedent. The very
word ’commerce’ has only an English meaning, and is pinched to the cramp
exigencies of English experience.  The commerce of rivers, the commerce
of railroads, and who knows but the commerce of air-balloons, must add
an American extension to the pond-hole of admiralty.  As long as our
people quote English standards, they will miss the sovereignty of power;
but let these rough riders,—legislators in shirt-sleeves,—Hoosier,
Sucker, Wolverine, Badger,—or whatever hard head Arkansas, Oregon, or
Utah sends, half orator, half assassin, to represent its wrath and
cupidity at Washington,—let these drive as they may; and the disposition
of territories and public lands, the necessity of balancing and keeping
at bay the snarling majorities of German, Irish, and of native millions,
will bestow promptness, address, and reason, at last, on our
buffalo-hunter, and authority and majesty of manners.  The instinct of
the people is right.  Men expect from good whigs, put into office by the
respectability of the country, much less skill to deal with Mexico,
Spain, Britain, or with our own malcontent members, than from some
strong transgressor, like Jefferson, or Jackson, who first conquers his
own government, and then uses the same genius to conquer the foreigner.
The senators who dissented from Mr. Polk’s Mexican war, were not those
who knew better, but those who, from political position, could afford
it; not Webster, but Benton and Calhoun.

This power, to be sure, is not clothed in satin. ’Tis the power of Lynch
law, of soldiers and pirates; and it bullies the peaceable and loyal.
But it brings its own antidote; and here is my point,—that all kinds of
power usually emerge at the same time; good energy, and bad; power of
mind, with physical health; the ecstasies of devotion, with the
exasperations of debauchery.  The same elements are always present, only
sometimes these conspicuous, and sometimes those; what was yesterday
foreground, being to-day background,—what was surface, playing now a not
less effective part as basis.  The longer the drought lasts, the more is
the atmosphere surcharged with water.  The faster the ball falls to the
sun, the force to fly off is by so much augmented.  And, in morals, wild
liberty breeds iron conscience; natures with great impulses have great
resources, and return from far.  In politics, the sons of democrats will
be whigs; whilst red republicanism, in the father, is a spasm of nature
to engender an intolerable tyrant in the next age. On the other hand,
conservatism, ever more timorous and narrow, disgusts the children, and
drives them for a mouthful of fresh air into radicalism.

Those who have most of this coarse energy,—the ’bruisers,’ who have run
the gauntlet of caucus and tavern through the county or the state, have
their own vices, but they have the good nature of strength and courage.
Fierce and unscrupulous, they are usually frank and direct, and above
falsehood. Our politics fall into bad hands, and churchmen and men of
refinement, it seems agreed, are not fit persons to send to Congress.
Politics is a deleterious profession, like some poisonous handicrafts.
Men in power have no opinions, but may be had cheap for any opinion, for
any purpose,—and if it be only a question between the most civil and the
most forcible, I lean to the last.  These Hoosiers and Suckers are
really better than the snivelling opposition.  Their wrath is at least
of a bold and manly cast.  They see, against the unanimous declarations
of the people, how much crime the people will bear; they proceed from
step to step, and they have calculated but too justly upon their
Excellencies, the New England governors, and upon their Honors, the New
England legislators.  The messages of the governors and the resolutions
of the legislatures, are a proverb for expressing a sham virtuous
indignation, which, in the course of events, is sure to be belied.

In trade, also, this energy usually carries a trace of ferocity.
Philanthropic and religious bodies do not commonly make their executive
officers out of saints.  The communities hitherto founded by
Socialists,—the Jesuits, the Port-Royalists, the American communities at
New Harmony, at Brook Farm, at Zoar, are only possible, by installing
Judas as steward.  The rest of the offices may be filled by good
burgesses.  The pious and charitable proprietor has a foreman not quite
so pious and charitable.  The most amiable of country gentlemen has a
certain pleasure in the teeth of the bull-dog which guards his orchard.
Of the Shaker society, it was formerly a sort of proverb in the country,
that they always sent the devil to market.  And in representations of
the Deity, painting, poetry, and popular religion have ever drawn the
wrath from Hell. It is an esoteric doctrine of society, that a little
wickedness is good to make muscle; as if conscience were not good for
hands and legs, as if poor decayed formalists of law and order cannot
run like wild goats, wolves, and conies; that, as there is a use in
medicine for poisons, so the world cannot move without rogues; that
public spirit and the ready hand are as well found among the malignants.
’Tis not very rare, the coincidence of sharp private and political
practice, with public spirit, and good neighborhood.

I knew a burly Boniface who for many years kept a public-house in one of
our rural capitals. He was a knave whom the town could ill spare. He was
a social, vascular creature, grasping and selfish.  There was no crime
which he did not or could not commit.  But he made good friends of the
selectmen, served them with his best chop, when they supped at his
house, and also with his honor the Judge, he was very cordial, grasping
his hand. He introduced all the fiends, male and female, into the town,
and united in his person the functions of bully, incendiary, swindler,
barkeeper, and burglar. He girdled the trees, and cut off the horses’
tails of the temperance people, in the night.  He led the rummies’ and
radicals in town-meeting with a speech.  Meantime, he was civil, fat,
and easy, in his house, and precisely the most public-spirited citizen.
He was active in getting the roads repaired and planted with
shade-trees; he subscribed for the fountains, the gas, and the
telegraph; he introduced the new horse-rake, the new scraper, the
baby-jumper, and what not, that Connecticut sends to the admiring
citizens.  He did this the easier, that the peddler stopped at his
house, and paid his keeping, by setting up his new trap on the
landlord’s premises.

Whilst thus the energy for originating and executing work, deforms
itself by excess, and so our axe chops off our own fingers,—this evil is
not without remedy.  All the elements whose aid man calls in, will
sometimes become his masters, especially those of most subtle force.
Shall he, then, renounce steam, fire, and electricity, or, shall he
learn to deal with them?  The rule for this whole class of agencies
is,—all _plus_ is good; only put it in the right place.

Men of this surcharge of arterial blood cannot live on nuts, herb-tea,
and elegies; cannot read novels, and play whist; cannot satisfy all
their wants at the Thursday Lecture, or the Boston Athenæum.  They pine
for adventure, and must go to Pike’s Peak; had rather die by the hatchet
of a Pawnee, than sit all day and every day at a counting-room desk.
They are made for war, for the sea, for mining, hunting, and clearing;
for hair-breadth adventures, huge risks, and the joy of eventful living.
Some men cannot endure an hour of calm at sea.  I remember a poor Malay
cook, on board a Liverpool packet, who, when the wind blew a gale, could
not contain his joy; "Blow!" he cried, "me do tell you, blow!"  Their
friends and governors must see that some vent for their explosive
complexion is provided.  The roisters who are destined for infamy at
home, if sent to Mexico, will "cover you with glory," and come back
heroes and generals.  There are Oregons, Californias, and Exploring
Expeditions enough appertaining to America, to find them in files to
gnaw, and in crocodiles to eat.  The young English are fine animals,
full of blood, and when they have no wars to breathe their riotous
valors in, they seek for travels as dangerous as war, diving into
Maelstroms; swimming Hellesponts; wading up the snowy Himmaleh; hunting
lion, rhinoceros, elephant, in South Africa; gypsying with Borrow in
Spain and Algiers; riding alligators in South America with Waterton;
utilizing Bedouin, Sheik, and Pacha, with Layard; yachting among the
icebergs of Lancaster Sound; peeping into craters on the equator; or
running on the creases of Malays in Borneo.

The excess of virility has the same importance in general history, as in
private and industrial life. Strong race or strong individual rests at
last on natural forces, which are best in the savage, who, like the
beasts around him, is still in reception of the milk from the teats of
Nature.  Cut off the connection between any of our works, and this
aboriginal source, and the work is shallow.  The people lean on this,
and the mob is not quite so bad an argument as we sometimes say, for it
has this good side.  "March without the people," said a French deputy
from the tribune, "and you march into night: their instincts are a
finger-pointing of Providence, always turned toward real benefit.  But
when you espouse an Orleans party, or a Bourbon, or a Montalembert
party, or any other but an organic party, though you mean well, you have
a personality instead of a principle, which will inevitably drag you
into a corner."

The best anecdotes of this force are to be had from savage life, in
explorers, soldiers, and buccaneers.  But who cares for fallings-out of
assassins, and fights of bears, or grindings of icebergs? Physical force
has no value, where there is nothing else.  Snow in snow-banks, fire in
volcanoes and solfataras is cheap.  The luxury of ice is in tropical
countries, and midsummer days.  The luxury of fire is, to have a little
on our hearth: and of electricity, not volleys of the charged cloud, but
the manageable stream on the battery-wires.  So of spirit, or energy;
the rests or remains of it in the civil and moral man, are worth all the
cannibals in the Pacific.

In history, the great moment is, when the savage is just ceasing to be a
savage, with all his hairy Pelasgic strength directed on his opening
sense of beauty:—and you have Pericles and Phidias,—not yet passed over
into the Corinthian civility. Everything good in nature and the world is
in that moment of transition, when the swarthy juices still flow
plentifully from nature, but their astringency or acridity is got out by
ethics and humanity.

The triumphs of peace have been in some proximity to war.  Whilst the
hand was still familiar with the sword-hilt, whilst the habits of the
camp were still visible in the port and complexion of the gentleman, his
intellectual power culminated: the compression and tension of these
stern conditions is a training for the finest and softest arts, and can
rarely be compensated in tranquil times, except by some analogous vigor
drawn from occupations as hardy as war.

We say that success is constitutional; depends on a _plus_ condition of
mind and body, on power of work, on courage: that it is of main efficacy
in carrying on the world, and, though rarely found in the right state
for an article of commerce, but oftener in the supersaturate or excess,
which makes it dangerous and destructive, yet it cannot be spared, and
must be had in that form, and absorbents provided to take off its edge.

The affirmative class monopolize the homage of mankind.  They originate
and execute all the great feats.  What a force was coiled up in the
skull of Napoleon!  Of the sixty thousand men making his army at Eylau,
it seems some thirty thousand were thieves and burglars.  The men whom,
in peaceful communities, we hold if we can, with iron at their legs, in
prisons, under the muskets of sentinels, this man dealt with, hand to
hand, dragged them to their duty, and won his victories by their

This aboriginal might gives a surprising pleasure when it appears under
conditions of supreme refinement, as in the proficients in high art.
When Michel Angelo was forced to paint the Sistine Chapel in fresco, of
which art he knew nothing, he went down into the Pope’s gardens behind
the Vatican, and with a shovel dug out ochres, red and yellow, mixed
them with glue and water with his own hands, and having, after many
trials, at last suited himself, climbed his ladders, and painted away,
week after week, month after month, the sibyls and prophets.  He
surpassed his successors in rough vigor, as much as in purity of
intellect and refinement.  He was not crushed by his one picture left
unfinished at last.  Michel was wont to draw his figures first in
skeleton, then to clothe them with flesh, and lastly to drape them.
"Ah!" said a brave painter to me, thinking on these things, "if a man
has failed, you will find he has dreamed instead of working.  There is
no way to success in our art, but to take off your coat, grind paint,
and work like a digger on the railroad, all day and every day."

Success goes thus invariably with a certain plus or positive power: an
ounce of power must balance an ounce of weight.  And, though a man
cannot return into his mother’s womb, and be born with new amounts of
vivacity, yet there are two economies, which are the best _succedanea_
which the case admits.  The first is, the stopping off decisively our
miscellaneous activity, and concentrating our force on one or a few
points; as the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree
into one or two vigorous limbs, instead of suffering it to spindle into
a sheaf of twigs.

"Enlarge not thy destiny," said the oracle: "endeavor not to do more
than is given thee in charge."  The one prudence in life is
concentration; the one evil is dissipation: and it makes no difference
whether our dissipations are coarse or fine; property and its cares,
friends, and a social habit, or politics, or music, or feasting.
Everything is good which takes away one plaything and delusion more, and
drives us home to add one stroke of faithful work.  Friends, books,
pictures, lower duties, talents, flatteries, hopes,—all are distractions
which cause oscillations in our giddy balloon, and make a good poise and
a straight course impossible.  You must elect your work; you shall take
what your brain can, and drop all the rest.  Only so, can that amount of
vital force accumulate, which can make the step from knowing to doing.
No matter how much faculty of idle seeing a man has, the step from
knowing to doing is rarely taken.  ’Tis a stop out of a chalk circle of
imbecility into fruitfulness. Many an artist lacking this, lacks all: he
sees the masculine Angelo or Cellini with despair.  He, too, is up to
Nature and the First Cause in his thought.  But the spasm to collect and
swing his whole being into one act, he has not.  The poet Campbell said,
that "a man accustomed to work was equal to any achievement he resolved
on, and, that, for himself, necessity not inspiration was the prompter
of his muse."

Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade,
in short, in all management of human affairs.  One of the high anecdotes
of the world is the reply of Newton to the inquiry, "how he had been
able to achieve his discoveries?"—"By always intending my mind."  Or if
you will have a text from politics, take this from Plutarch: "There was,
in the whole city, but one street in which Pericles was ever seen, the
street which led to the market-place and the council house.  He declined
all invitations to banquets, and all gay assemblies and company.  During
the whole period of his administration, he never dined at the table of a
friend."  Or if we seek an example from trade,—"I hope," said a good man
to Rothschild, "your children are not too fond of money and business: I
am sure you would not wish that."—"I am sure I should wish that: I wish
them to give mind, soul, heart, and body to business,—that is the way to
be happy.  It requires a great deal of boldness and a great deal of
caution, to make a great fortune, and when you have got it, it requires
ten times as much wit to keep it.  If I were to listen to all the
projects proposed to me, I should ruin myself very soon.  Stick to one
business, young man.  Stick to your brewery, (he said this to young
Buxton,) and you will be the great brewer of London.  Be brewer, and
banker, and merchant, and manufacturer, and you will soon be in the

Many men are knowing, many are apprehensive and tenacious, but they do
not rush to a decision. But in our flowing affairs a decision must be
made,—the best, if you can; but any is better than none.  There are
twenty ways of going to a point, and one is the shortest; but set out at
once on one.  A man who has that presence of mind which can bring to him
on the instant all he knows, is worth for action a dozen men who know as
much, but can only bring it to light slowly.  The good Speaker in the
House is not the man who knows the theory of parliamentary tactics, but
the man who decides off-hand.  The good judge is not he who does
hair-splitting justice to every allegation, but who, aiming at
substantial justice, rules something intelligible for the guidance of
suitors. The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and
angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who
throws himself on your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a
scrape.  Dr. Johnson said, in one of his flowing sentences, "Miserable
beyond all names of wretchedness is that unhappy pair, who are doomed to
reduce beforehand to the principles of abstract reason all the details
of each domestic day.  There are cases where little can be said, and
much must be done."

The second substitute for temperament is drill, the power of use and
routine.  The hack is a better roadster than the Arab barb.  In
chemistry, the galvanic stream, slow, but continuous, is equal in power
to the electric spark, and is, in our arts, a better agent.  So in human
action, against the spasm of energy, we offset the continuity of drill.
We spread the same amount of force over much time, instead of condensing
it into a moment.  ’Tis the same ounce of gold here in a ball, and there
in a leaf.  At West Point, Col. Buford, the chief engineer, pounded with
a hammer on the trunnions of a cannon, until he broke them off.  He
fired a piece of ordnance some hundred times in swift succession, until
it burst.  Now which stroke broke the trunnion? Every stroke.  Which
blast burst the piece? Every blast.  "_Diligence passe sens_" Henry
VIII. was wont to say, or, great is drill.  John Kemble said, that the
worst provincial company of actors would go through a play better than
the best amateur company.  Basil Hall likes to show that the worst
regular troops will beat the best volunteers.  Practice is nine tenths.
A course of mobs is good practice for orators.  All the great speakers
were bad speakers at first. Stumping it through England for seven years,
made Cobden a consummate debater.  Stumping it through New England for
twice seven, trained Wendell Phillips.  The way to learn German, is, to
read the same dozen pages over and over a hundred times, till you know
every word and particle in them, and can pronounce and repeat them by
heart.  No genius can recite a ballad at first reading, so well as
mediocrity can at the fifteenth or twentieth reading.  The rule for
hospitality and Irish ’help,’ is, to have the same dinner every day
throughout the year.  At last, Mrs. O’Shaughnessy learns to cook it to a
nicety, the host learns to carve it, and the guests are well served.  A
humorous friend of mine thinks, that the reason why Nature is so perfect
in her art, and gets up such inconceivably fine sunsets, is, that she
has learned how, at last, by dint of doing the same thing so very often.
Cannot one converse better on a topic on which he has experience, than
on one which is new?  Men whose opinion is valued on ’Change, are only
such as have a special experience, and off that ground their opinion is
not valuable, "More are made good by exercitation, than by nature," said
Democritus.  The friction in nature is so enormous that we cannot spare
any power.  It is not question to express our thought, to elect our way,
but to overcome resistances of the medium and material in everything we
do.  Hence the use of drill, and the worthlessness of amateurs to cope
with practitioners.  Six hours every day at the piano, only to give
facility of touch; six hours a day at painting, only to give command of
the odious materials, oil, ochres, and brushes.  The masters say, that
they know a master in music, only by seeing the pose of the hands on the
keys;—so difficult and vital an act is the command of the instrument. To
have learned the use of the tools, by thousands of manipulations; to
have learned the arts of reckoning, by endless adding and dividing, is
the power of the mechanic and the clerk. I remarked in England, in
confirmation of a frequent experience at home, that, in literary
circles, the men of trust and consideration, bookmakers, editors,
university deans and professors, bishops, too, were by no means men of
the largest literary talent, but usually of a low and ordinary
intellectuality, with a sort of mercantile activity and working talent.
Indifferent hacks and mediocrities tower, by pushing their forces to a
lucrative point, or by working power, over multitudes of superior men,
in Old as in New England.

I have not forgotten that there are sublime considerations which limit
the value of talent and superficial success.  We can easily overpraise
the vulgar hero.  There are sources on which we have not drawn.  I know
what I abstain from.  I adjourn what I have to say on this topic to the
chapters on Culture and Worship.  But this force or spirit, being the
means relied on by Nature for bringing the work of the day about,—as far
as we attach importance to household life, and the prizes of the world,
we must respect that.  And I hold, that an economy may be applied to it;
it is as much a subject of exact law and arithmetic as fluids and gases
are; it may be husbanded, or wasted; every man is efficient only as he
is a container or vessel of this force, and never was any signal act or
achievement in history, but by this expenditure.  This is not gold, but
the gold-maker; not the fame, but the exploit.

If these forces and this husbandry are within reach of our will, and the
laws of them can be read, we infer that all success, and all conceivable
benefit for man, is also, first or last, within his reach, and has its
own sublime economies by which it may be attained.  The world is
mathematical, and has no casualty, in all its vast and flowing curve.
Success has no more eccentricity, than the gingham and muslin we weave
in our mills.  I know no more affecting lesson to our busy, plotting New
England brains, than to go into one of the factories with which we have
lined all the watercourses in the States.  A man hardly knows how much
he is a machine, until he begins to make telegraph, loom, press, and
locomotive, in his own image.  But in these, he is forced to leave out
his follies and hindrances, so that when we go to the mill, the machine
is more moral than we.  Let a man dare go to a loom, and see if he be
equal to it.  Let machine confront machine, and see how they come out.
The world-mill is more complex than the calico-mill, and the architect
stooped less.  In the gingham-mill, a broken thread or a shred spoils
the web through a piece of a hundred yards, and is traced back to the
girl that wove it, and lessens her wages.  The stockholder, on being
shown this, rubs his hands with delight.  Are you so cunning, Mr.
Profitless, and do you expect to swindle your master and employer, in
the web you weave?  A day is a more magnificent cloth than any muslin,
the mechanism that makes it is infinitely cunninger, and you shall not
conceal the sleezy, fraudulent, rotten hours you have slipped into the
piece, nor fear that any honest thread, or straighter steel, or more
inflexible shaft, will not testify in the web.



    Who shall tell what did befall,
    Far away in time, when once,
    Over the lifeless ball,
    Hung idle stars and suns?
    What god the element obeyed?
    Wings of what wind the lichen bore,
    Wafting the puny seeds of power,
    Which, lodged in rock, the rock abrade?
    And well the primal pioneer
    Knew the strong task to it assigned
    Patient through Heaven’s enormous year
    To build in matter home for mind.
    From air the creeping centuries drew
    The matted thicket low and wide,
    This must the leaves of ages strew
    The granite slab to clothe and hide,
    Ere wheat can wave its golden pride.
    What smiths, and in what furnace, rolled
    (In dizzy æons dim and mute
    The reeling brain can ill compute)
    Copper and iron, lead, and gold?
    What oldest star the fame can save
    Of races perishing to pave
    The planet with a floor of lime?
    Dust is their pyramid and mole:
    Who saw what ferns and palms were pressed
    Under the tumbling mountain’s breast,
    In the safe herbal of the coal?
    But when the quarried means were piled,
    All is waste and worthless, till
    Arrives the wise selecting will,
    And, out of slime and chaos, Wit
    Draws the threads of fair and fit.
    Then temples rose, and towns, and marts,
    The shop of toil, the hall of arts;
    Then flew the sail across the seas
    To feed the North from tropic trees;
    The storm-wind wove, the torrent span,
    Where they were bid the rivers ran;
    New slaves fulfilled the poet’s dream,
    Galvanic wire, strong-shouldered steam.
    Then docks were built, and crops were stored,
    And ingots added to the hoard.
    But, though light-headed man forget,
    Remembering Matter pays her debt:
    Still, through her motes and masses, draw
    Electric thrills and ties of Law,
    Which bind the strengths of Nature wild
    To the conscience of a child.


As soon as a stranger is introduced into any company, one of the first
questions which all wish to have answered, is, How does that man get his
living?  And with reason.  He is no whole man until he knows how to earn
a blameless livelihood. Society is barbarous, until every industrious
man can get his living without dishonest customs.

Every man is a consumer, and ought to be a producer.  He fails to make
his place good in the world, unless he not only pays his debt, but also
adds something to the common wealth.  Nor can he do justice to his
genius, without making some larger demand on the world than a bare
subsistence.  He is by constitution expensive, and needs to be rich.

Wealth has its source in applications of the mind to nature, from the
rudest strokes of spade and axe, up to the last secrets of art.
Intimate ties subsist between thought and all production; because a
better order is equivalent to vast amounts of brute labor.  The forces
and the resistances are Nature’s, but the mind acts in bringing things
from where they abound to where they are wanted; in wise combining; in
directing the practice of the useful arts, and in the creation of finer
values, by fine art, by eloquence, by song, or the reproductions of
memory.  Wealth is in applications of mind to nature, and the art of
getting rich consists not in industry, much less in saving, but in a
better order, in timeliness, in being at the right spot.  One man has
stronger arms, or longer legs; another sees by the course of streams,
and growth of markets, where land will be wanted, makes a clearing to
the river, goes to sleep, and wakes up rich.  Steam is no stronger now,
than it was a hundred years ago; but is put to better use.  A clever
fellow was acquainted with the expansive force of steam; he also saw the
wealth of wheat and grass rotting in Michigan.  Then he cunningly screws
on the steam-pipe to the wheat-crop.  Puff now, O Steam! The steam puffs
and expands as before, but this time it is dragging all Michigan at its
back to hungry New York and hungry England.  Coal lay in ledges under
the ground since the Flood, until a laborer with pick and windlass
brings it to the surface.  We may well call it black diamonds.  Every
basket is power and civilization.  For coal is a portable climate.  It
carries the heat of the tropics to Labrador and the polar circle: and it
is the means of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted. Watt and
Stephenson whispered in the ear of mankind their secret, that a
half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by
rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta, and with its
comfort brings its industrial power.

When the farmer’s peaches are taken from under the tree, and carried
into town, they have a new look, and a hundredfold value over the fruit
which grew on the same bough, and lies fulsomely on the ground.  The
craft of the merchant is this bringing a thing from where it abounds, to
where it is costly.

Wealth begins in a tight roof that keeps the rain and wind out; in a
good pump that yields you plenty of sweet water; in two suits of
clothes, so to change your dress when you are wet; in dry sticks to
burn; in a good double-wick lamp; and three meals; in a horse, or a
locomotive, to cross the land; in a boat to cross the sea; in tools to
work with; in books to read; and so, in giving, on all sides, by tools
and auxiliaries, the greatest possible extension to our powers, as if it
added feet, and hands, and eyes, and blood, length to the day, and
knowledge, and good-will.

Wealth begins with these articles of necessity. And here we must recite
the iron law which Nature thunders in these northern climates.  First,
she requires that each man should feed himself. If, happily, his fathers
have left him no inheritance, he must go to work, and by making his
wants less, or his gains more, he must draw himself out of that state of
pain and insult in which she forces the beggar to lie.  She gives him no
rest until this is done: she starves, taunts, and torments him, takes
away warmth, laughter, sleep, friends, and daylight, until he has fought
his way to his own loaf.  Then, less peremptorily, but still with sting
enough, she urges him to the acquisition of such things as belong to
him.  Every warehouse and shop-window, every fruit-tree, every thought
of every hour, opens a new want to him, which it concerns his power and
dignity to gratify.  It is of no use to argue the wants down: the
philosophers have laid the greatness of man in making his wants few; but
will a man content himself with a hut and a handful of dried pease?  He
is born to be rich.  He is thoroughly related; and is tempted out by his
appetites and fancies to the conquest of this and that piece of nature,
until he finds his well-being in the use of his planet, and of more
planets than his own.  Wealth requires, besides the crust of bread and
the roof,—the freedom of the city, the freedom of the earth, travelling,
machinery, the benefits of science, music, and fine arts, the best
culture, and the best company.  He is the rich man who can avail himself
of all men’s faculties.  He is the richest man who knows how to draw a
benefit from the labors of the greatest number of men, of men in distant
countries, and in past times.  The same correspondence that is between
thirst in the stomach, and water in the spring, exists between the whole
of man and the whole of nature.  The elements offer their service to
him.  The sea, washing the equator and the poles, offers its perilous
aid, and the power and empire that follow it,—day by day to his craft
and audacity.  "Beware of me," it says, "but if you can hold me, I am
the key to all the lands."  Fire offers, on its side, an equal power.
Fire, steam, lightning, gravity, ledges of rock, mines of iron, lead,
quicksilver, tin, and gold; forests of all woods; fruits of all
climates; animals of all habits; the powers of tillage; the fabrics of
his chemic laboratory; the webs of his loom; the masculine draught of
his locomotive, the talismans of the machine-shop; all grand and subtile
things, minerals, gases, ethers, passions, war, trade, government, are
his natural playmates, and, according to the excellence of the machinery
in each human being, is his attraction for the instruments he is to
employ.  The world is his tool-chest, and he is successful, or his
education is carried on just so far, as is the marriage of his faculties
with nature, or, the degree in which he takes up things into himself.

The strong race is strong on these terms.  The Saxons are the merchants
of the world; now, for a thousand years, the leading race, and by
nothing more than their quality of personal independence, and, in its
special modification, pecuniary independence. No reliance for bread and
games on the government, no clanship, no patriarchal style of living by
the revenues of a chief, no marrying-on,—no system of clientship suits
them; but every man must pay his scot.  The English are prosperous and
peaceable, with their habit of considering that every man must take care
of himself, and has himself to thank, if he do not maintain and improve
his position in society.

The subject of economy mixes itself with morals, inasmuch as it is a
peremptory point of virtue that a man’s independence be secured.
Poverty demoralizes.  A man in debt is so far a slave; and Wall-street
thinks it easy for a _millionaire_ to be a man of his word, a man of
honor, but, that, in failing circumstances, no man can be relied on to
keep his integrity.  And when one observes in the hotels and palaces of
our Atlantic capitals, the habit of expense, the riot of the senses, the
absence of bonds, clanship, fellow-feeling of any kind, he feels, that,
when a man or a woman is driven to the wall, the chances of integrity
are frightfully diminished, as if virtue were coming to be a luxury
which few could afford, or, as Burke said, "at a market almost too high
for humanity."  He may fix his inventory of necessities and of
enjoyments on what scale he pleases, but if he wishes the power and
privilege of thought, the chalking out his own career, and having
society on his own terms, he must bring his wants within his proper
power to satisfy.

The manly part is to do with might and main what you can do.  The world
is full of fops who never did anything, and who have persuaded beauties
and men of genius to wear their fop livery, and these will deliver the
fop opinion, that it is not respectable to be seen earning a living;
that it is much more respectable to spend without earning; and this
doctrine of the snake will come also from the elect sons of light; for
wise men are not wise at all hours, and will speak five times from their
taste or their humor, to once from their reason. The brave workman, who
might betray his feeling of it in his manners, if he do not succumb in
his practice, must replace the grace or elegance forfeited, by the merit
of the work done.  No matter whether he make shoes, or statues, or laws.
It is the privilege of any human work which is well done to invest the
doer with a certain haughtiness. He can well afford not to conciliate,
whose faithful work will answer for him.  The mechanic at his bench
carries a quiet heart and assured manners, and deals on even terms with
men of any condition. The artist has made his picture so true, that it
disconcerts criticism.  The statue is so beautiful, that it contracts no
stain from the market, but makes the market a silent gallery for itself.
The case of the young lawyer was pitiful to disgust,—a paltry matter of
buttons or tweezer-cases; but the determined youth saw in it an aperture
to insert his dangerous wedges, made the insignificance of the thing
forgotten, and gave fame by his sense and energy to the name and affairs
of the Tittleton snuffbox factory.

Society in large towns is babyish, and wealth is made a toy.  The life
of pleasure is so ostentatious, that a shallow observer must believe
that this is the agreed best use of wealth, and, whatever is pretended,
it ends in cosseting.  But, if this were the main use of surplus
capital, it would bring us to barricades, burned towns, and tomahawks,
presently.  Men of sense esteem wealth to be the assimilation of nature
to themselves, the converting of the sap and juices of the planet to the
incarnation and nutriment of their design.  Power is what they want,—not
candy;—power to execute their design, power to give legs and feet, form
and actuality to their thought, which, to a clear-sighted man, appears
the end for which the Universe exists, and all its resources might be
well applied. Columbus thinks that the sphere is a problem for practical
navigation, as well as for closet geometry, and looks on all kings and
peoples as cowardly landsmen, until they dare fit him out.  Few men on
the planet have more truly belonged to it.  But he was forced to leave
much of his map blank. His successors inherited his map, and inherited
his fury to complete it.

So the men of the mine, telegraph, mill, map, and survey,—the
monomaniacs, who talk up their project in marts, and offices, and
entreat men to subscribe:—how did our factories get built? how did North
America get netted with iron rails, except by the importunity of these
orators, who dragged all the prudent men in?  Is party the madness of
many for the gain of a few?  This _speculative_ genius is the madness of
few for the gain of the world.  The projectors are sacrificed, but the
public is the gainer.  Each of these idealists, working after his
thought, would make it tyrannical, if he could.  He is met and
antagonized by other speculators, as hot as he.  The equilibrium is
preserved by these counteractions, as one tree keeps down another in the
forest, that it may not absorb all the sap in the ground.  And the
supply in nature of railroad presidents, copper-miners,
grand-junctioners, smoke-burners, fire-annihilators, &c., is limited by
the same law which keeps the proportion in the supply of carbon, of
alum, and of hydrogen.

To be rich is to have a ticket of admission to the master-works and
chief men of each race.  It is to have the sea, by voyaging; to visit
the mountains, Niagara, the Nile, the desert, Rome, Paris,
Constantinople; to see galleries, libraries, arsenals, manufactories.
The reader of Humboldt’s "Cosmos" follows the marches of a man whose
eyes, ears, and mind are armed by all the science, arts, and implements
which mankind have any where accumulated, and who is using these to add
to the stock.  So is it with Denon, Beckford, Belzoni, Wilkinson,
Layard, Kane, Lepsius, and Livingston.  "The rich man," says Saadi, "is
everywhere expected and at home."  The rich take up something more of
the world into man’s life. They include the country as well as the town,
the ocean-side, the White Hills, the Far West, and the old European
homesteads of man, in their notion of available material.  The world is
his, who has money to go over it.  He arrives at the sea-shore, and a
sumptuous ship has floored and carpeted for him the stormy Atlantic, and
made it a luxurious hotel, amid the horrors of tempests.  The Persians
say, "’Tis the same to him who wears a shoe, as if the whole earth were
covered with leather."

Kings are said to have long arms, but every man should have long arms,
and should pluck his living, his instruments, his power, and his
knowing, from the sun, moon, and stars.  Is not then the demand to be
rich legitimate?  Yet, I have never seen a rich man.  I have never seen
a man as rich as all men ought to be, or, with an adequate command of
nature.  The pulpit and the press have many commonplaces denouncing the
thirst for wealth; but if men should take these moralists at their word,
and leave off aiming to be rich, the moralists would rush to rekindle at
all hazards this love of power in the people, lest civilization should
be undone.  Men are urged by their ideas to acquire the command over
nature.  Ages derive a culture from the wealth of Roman Cæsars, Leo
Tenths, magnificent Kings of France, Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Dukes of
Devonshire, Townleys, Vernons, and Peels, in England; or whatever great
proprietors.  It is the interest of all men, that there should be
Vaticans and Louvres full of noble works of art; British Museums, and
French Gardens of Plants, Philadelphia Academies of Natural History,
Bodleian, Ambrosian, Royal, Congressional Libraries.  It is the interest
of all that there should be Exploring Expeditions; Captain Cooks to
voyage round the world, Rosses, Franklins, Richardsons, and Kanes, to
find the magnetic and the geographic poles.  We are all richer for the
measurement of a degree of latitude on the earth’s surface.  Our
navigation is safer for the chart.  How intimately our knowledge of the
system of the Universe rests on that!—and a true economy in a state or
an individual will forget its frugality in behalf of claims like these.

Whilst it is each man’s interest, that, not only ease and convenience of
living, but also wealth or surplus product should exist somewhere, it
need not be in his hands.  Often it is very undesirable to him.  Goethe
said well, "nobody should be rich but those who understand it."  Some
men are born to own, and can animate all their possessions.  Others
cannot: their owning is not graceful; seems to be a compromise of their
character: they seem to steal their own dividends.  They should own who
can administer; not they who hoard and conceal; not they who, the
greater proprietors they are, are only the greater beggars, but they
whose work carves out work for more, opens a path for all.  For he is
the rich man in whom the people are rich, and he is the poor man in whom
the people are poor: and how to give all access to the masterpieces of
art and nature, is the problem of civilization.  The socialism of our
day has done good service in setting men on thinking how certain
civilizing benefits, now only enjoyed by the opulent, can be enjoyed by
all.  For example, the providing to each man the means and apparatus of
science, and of the arts.  There are many articles good for occasional
use, which few men are able to own. Every man wishes to see the ring of
Saturn, the satellites and belts of Jupiter and Mars; the mountains and
craters in the moon: yet how few can buy a telescope! and of those,
scarcely one would like the trouble of keeping it in order, and
exhibiting it.  So of electrical and chemical apparatus, and many the
like things.  Every man may have occasion to consult books which he does
not care to possess, such as cyclopedias, dictionaries, tables, charts,
maps, and public documents: pictures also of birds, beasts, fishes,
shells, trees, flowers, whose names he desires to know.

There is a refining influence from the arts of Design on a prepared
mind, which is as positive as that of music, and not to be supplied from
any other source.  But pictures, engravings, statues, and casts, beside
their first cost, entail expenses, as of galleries and keepers for the
exhibition; and the use which any man can make of them is rare, and
their value, too, is much enhanced by the numbers of men who can share
their enjoyment.  In the Greek cities, it was reckoned profane, that any
person should pretend a property in a work of art, which belonged to all
who could behold it.  I think sometimes,—could I only have music on my
own terms;—could I live in a great city, and know where I could go
whenever I wished the ablution and inundation of musical waves,—that
were a bath and a medicine.

If properties of this kind were owned by states, towns, and lyceums,
they would draw the bonds of neighborhood closer.  A town would exist to
an intellectual purpose.  In Europe, where the feudal forms secure the
permanence of wealth in certain families, those families buy and
preserve those things, and lay them open to the public.  But in America,
where democratic institutions divide every estate into small portions,
after a few years, the public should step into the place of these
proprietors, and provide this culture and inspiration for the citizen.

Man was born to be rich, or, inevitably grows rich by the use of his
faculties; by the union of thought with nature.  Property is an
intellectual production.  The game requires coolness, right reasoning,
promptness, and patience in the players. Cultivated labor drives out
brute labor.  An infinite number of shrewd men, in infinite years, have
arrived at certain best and shortest ways of doing, and this accumulated
skill in arts, cultures, harvestings, curings, manufactures,
navigations, exchanges, constitutes the worth of our world to-day.

Commerce is a game of skill, which every man cannot play, which few men
can play well.  The right merchant is one who has the just average of
faculties we call _common sense_; a man of a strong affinity for facts,
who makes up his decision on what he has seen.  He is thoroughly
persuaded of the truths of arithmetic.  There is always a reason, _in
the man_, for his good or bad fortune, and so, in making money.  Men
talk as if there were some magic about this, and believe in magic, in
all parts of life.  He knows, that all goes on the old road, pound for
pound, cent for cent,—for every effect a perfect cause,—and that good
luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.  He insures himself in
every transaction, and likes small and sure gains.  Probity and
closeness to the facts are the basis, but the masters of the art add a
certain long arithmetic.  The problem is, to combine many and remote
operations, with the accuracy and adherence to the facts, which is easy
in near and small transactions; so to arrive at gigantic results,
without any compromise of safety.  Napoleon was fond of telling the
story of the Marseilles banker, who said to his visitor, surprised at
the contrast between the splendor of the banker’s chateau and
hospitality, and the meanness of the counting-room in which he had seen
him,—"Young man, you are too young to understand how masses are
formed,—the true and only power,—whether composed of money, water, or
men, it is all alike,—a mass is an immense centre of motion, but it must
be begun, it must be kept up:"—and he might have added, that the way in
which it must be begun and kept up, is, by obedience to the law of

Success consists in close appliance to the laws of the world, and, since
those laws are intellectual and moral, an intellectual and moral
obedience. Political Economy is as good a book wherein to read the life
of man, and the ascendency of laws over all private and hostile
influences, as any Bible which has come down to us.

Money is representative, and follows the nature and fortunes of the
owner.  The coin is a delicate meter of civil, social, and moral
changes.  The farmer is covetous of his dollar, and with reason. It is
no waif to him.  He knows how many strokes of labor it represents.  His
bones ache with the day’s work that earned it.  He knows how much land
it represents;—how much rain, frost, and sunshine.  He knows that, in
the dollar, he gives you so much discretion and patience, so much
hoeing, and threshing.  Try to lift his dollar; you must lift all that
weight.  In the city, where money follows the skit of a pen, or a lucky
rise in exchange, it comes to be looked on as light.  I wish the farmer
held it dearer, and would spend it only for real bread; force for force.

The farmer’s dollar is heavy, and the clerk’s is light and nimble; leaps
out of his pocket; jumps on to cards and faro-tables: but still more
curious is its susceptibility to metaphysical changes.  It is the finest
barometer of social storms, and announces revolutions.

Every step of civil advancement makes every man’s dollar worth more.  In
California, the country where it grew,—what would it buy?  A few years
since, it would buy a shanty, dysentery, hunger, bad company, and crime.
There are wide countries, like Siberia, where it would buy little else
to-day, than some petty mitigation of suffering. In Rome, it will buy
beauty and magnificence. Forty years ago, a dollar would not buy much in
Boston.  Now it will buy a great deal more in our old town, thanks to
railroads, telegraphs, steamers, and the contemporaneous growth of New
York, and the whole country.  Yet there are many goods appertaining to a
capital city, which are not yet purchasable here, no, not with a
mountain of dollars. A dollar in Florida is not worth a dollar in
Massachusetts.  A dollar is not value, but representative of value, and,
at last, of moral values.  A dollar is rated for the corn it will buy,
or to speak strictly, not for the corn or house-room, but for Athenian
corn, and Roman house-room,—for the wit, probity, and power, which we
eat bread and dwell in houses to share and exert.  Wealth is mental;
wealth is moral.  The value of a dollar is, to buy just things: a dollar
goes on increasing in value with all the genius, and all the virtue of
the world.  A dollar in a university, is worth more than a dollar in a
jail; in a temperate, schooled, law-abiding community, than in some sink
of crime, where dice, knives, and arsenic, are in constant play.

The "Bank-Note Detector" is a useful publication. But the current
dollar, silver or paper, is itself the detector of the right and wrong
where it circulates.  Is it not instantly enhanced by the increase of
equity?  If a trader refuses to sell his vote, or adheres to some odious
right, he makes so much more equity in Massachusetts; and every acre in
the State is more worth, in the hour of his action. If you take out of
State-street the ten honestest merchants, and put in ten roguish
persons, controlling the same amount of capital,—the rates of insurance
will indicate it; the soundness of banks will show it: the highways will
be less secure: the schools will feel it; the children will bring home
their little dose of the poison: the judge will sit less firmly on the
bench, and his decisions be less upright; he has lost so much support
and constraint,—which all need; and the pulpit will betray it, in a
laxer rule of life.  An apple-tree, if you take out every day for a
number of days, a load of loam, and put in a load of sand about its
roots,—will find it out.  An apple-tree is a stupid kind of creature,
but if this treatment be pursued for a short time, I think it would
begin to mistrust something.  And if you should take out of the powerful
class engaged in trade a hundred good men, and put in a hundred bad, or,
what is just the same thing, introduce a demoralizing institution, would
not the dollar, which is not much stupider than an apple-tree, presently
find it out?  The value of a dollar is social, as it is created by
society. Every man who removes into this city, with any purchasable
talent or skill in him, gives to every man’s labor in the city, a new
worth.  If a talent is anywhere born into the world, the community of
nations is enriched; and, much more, with a new degree of probity.  The
expense of crime, one of the principal charges of every nation, is so
far stopped.  In Europe, crime is observed to increase or abate with the
price of bread.  If the Rothschilds at Paris do not accept bills, the
people at Manchester, at Paisley, at Birmingham, are forced into the
highway, and landlords are shot down in Ireland.  The police records
attest it.  The vibrations are presently felt in New York, New Orleans,
and Chicago.  Not much otherwise, the economical power touches the
masses through the political lords.  Rothschild refuses the Russian
loan, and there is peace, and the harvests are saved.  He takes it, and
there is war, and an agitation through a large portion of mankind, with
every hideous result, ending in revolution, and a new order.

Wealth brings with it its own checks and balances.  The basis of
political economy is non-interference.  The only safe rule is found in
the self-adjusting meter of demand and supply.  Do not legislate.
Meddle, and you snap the sinews with your sumptuary laws.  Give no
bounties: make equal laws: secure life and property, and you need not
give alms.  Open the doors of opportunity to talent and virtue, and they
will do themselves justice, and property will not be in bad hands. In a
free and just commonwealth, property rushes from the idle and imbecile,
to the industrious, brave, and persevering.

The laws of nature play through trade, as a toy-battery exhibits the
effects of electricity.  The level of the sea is not more surely kept,
than is the equilibrium of value in society, by the demand and supply:
and artifice or legislation punishes itself, by reactions, gluts, and
bankruptcies.  The sublime laws play indifferently through atoms and
galaxies. Whoever knows what happens in the getting and spending of a
loaf of bread and a pint of beer; that no wishing will change the
rigorous limits of pints and penny loaves; that, for all that is
consumed, so much less remains in the basket and pot; but what is gone
out of these is not wasted, but well spent, if it nourish his body, and
enable him to finish his task;—knows all of political economy that the
budgets of empires can teach him.  The interest of petty economy is this
symbolization of the great economy; the way in which a house, and a
private man’s methods, tally with the solar system, and the laws of give
and take, throughout nature; and, however wary we are of the falsehoods
and petty tricks which we suicidally play off on each other, every man
has a certain satisfaction, whenever his dealing touches on the
inevitable facts; when he sees that things themselves dictate the price,
as they always tend to do, and, in large manufactures, are seen to do.
Your paper is not fine or coarse enough,—is too heavy, or too thin.  The
manufacturer says, he will furnish you with just that thickness or
thinness you want; the pattern is quite indifferent to him; here is his
schedule;—any variety of paper, as cheaper or dearer, with the prices
annexed.  A pound of paper costs so much, and you may have it made up in
any pattern you fancy.

There is in all our dealings a self-regulation that supersedes
chaffering.  You will rent a house, but must have it cheap.  The owner
can reduce the rent, but so he incapacitates himself from making proper
repairs, and the tenant gets not the house he would have, but a worse
one; besides, that a relation a little injurious is established between
landlord and tenant.  You dismiss your laborer, saying, "Patrick, I
shall send for you as soon as I cannot do without you."  Patrick goes
off contented, for he knows that the weeds will grow with the potatoes,
the vines must be planted, next week, and, however unwilling you may be,
the cantelopes, crook-necks, and cucumbers will send for him.  Who but
must wish that all labor and value should stand on the same simple and
surly market?  If it is the best of its kind, it will.  We must have
joiner, locksmith, planter, priest, poet, doctor, cook, weaver, ostler;
each in turn, through the year.

If a St. Michael’s pear sells for a shilling, it costs a shilling to
raise it.  If, in Boston, the best securities offer twelve _per cent._
for money, they have just six _per cent._ of insecurity.  You may not
see that the fine pear costs you a shilling, but it costs the community
so much.  The shilling represents the number of enemies the pear has,
and the amount of risk in ripening it.  The price of coal shows the
narrowness of the coal-field, and a compulsory confinement of the miners
to a certain district.  All salaries are reckoned on contingent, as well
as on actual services.  "If the wind were always southwest by west,"
said the skipper, "women might take ships to sea."  One might say, that
all things are of one price; that nothing is cheap or dear; and that the
apparent disparities that strike us, are only a shopman’s trick of
concealing the damage in your bargain.  A youth coming into the city
from his native New Hampshire farm, with its hard fare still fresh in
his remembrance, boards at a first-class hotel, and believes he must
somehow have outwitted Dr. Franklin and Malthus, for luxuries are cheap.
But he pays for the one convenience of a better dinner, by the loss of
some of the richest social and educational advantages.  He has lost what
guards! what incentives!  He will perhaps find by and by, that he left
the Muses at the door of the hotel, and found the Furies inside.  Money
often costs too much, and power and pleasure are not cheap.  The ancient
poet said, "the gods sell all things at a fair price."

There is an example of the compensations in the commercial history of
this country.  When the European wars threw the carrying-trade of the
world, from 1800 to 1812, into American bottoms, a seizure was now and
then made of an American ship.  Of course, the loss was serious to the
owner, but the country was indemnified; for we charged threepence a
pound for carrying cotton, sixpence for tobacco, and so on; which paid
for the risk and loss, and brought into the country an immense
prosperity, early marriages, private wealth, the building of cities, and
of states: and, after the war was over, we received compensation over
and above, by treaty, for all the seizures.  Well, the Americans grew
rich and great.  But the pay-day comes round.  Britain, France, and
Germany, which our extraordinary profits had impoverished, send out,
attracted by the fame of our advantages, first their thousands, then
their millions, of poor people, to share the crop. At first, we employ
them, and increase our prosperity: but, in the artificial system of
society and of protected labor, which we also have adopted and enlarged,
there come presently checks and stoppages.  Then we refuse to employ
these poor men. But they will not so be answered.  They go into the poor
rates, and, though we refuse wages, we must now pay the same amount in
the form of taxes.  Again, it turns out that the largest proportion of
crimes are committed by foreigners.  The cost of the crime, and the
expense of courts, and of prisons, we must bear, and the standing army
of preventive police we must pay.  The cost of education of the
posterity of this great colony, I will not compute.  But the gross
amount of these costs will begin to pay back what we thought was a net
gain from our transatlantic customers of 1800. It is vain to refuse this
payment.  We cannot get rid of these people, and we cannot get rid of
their will to be supported.  That has become an inevitable element of
our politics; and, for their votes, each of the dominant parties courts
and assists them to get it executed.  Moreover, we have to pay, not what
would have contented them at home, but what they have learned to think
necessary here; so that opinion, fancy, and all manner of moral
considerations complicate the problem.

There are a few measures of economy which will bear to be named without
disgust; for the subject is tender, and we may easily have too much of
it; and therein resembles the hideous animalcules of which our bodies
are built up,—which, offensive in the particular, yet compose valuable
and effective masses.  Our nature and genius force us to respect ends,
whilst we use means.  We must use the means, and yet, in our most
accurate using, somehow screen and cloak them, as we can only give them
any beauty, by a reflection of the glory of the end.  That is the good
head, which serves the end, and commands the means.  The rabble are
corrupted by their means: the means are too strong for them, and they
desert their end.

1. The first of these measures is that each man’s expense must proceed
from his character.  As long as your genius buys, the investment is
safe, though you spend like a monarch.  Nature arms each man with some
faculty which enables him to do easily some feat impossible to any
other, and thus makes him necessary to society.  This native
determination guides his labor and his spending.  He wants an equipment
of means and tools proper to his talent.  And to save on this point,
were to neutralize the special strength and helpfulness of each mind. Do
your work, respecting the excellence of the work, and not its
acceptableness.  This is so much economy, that, rightly read, it is the
sum of economy.  Profligacy consists not in spending years of time or
chests of money,—but in spending them off the line of your career.  The
crime which bankrupts men and states, is, job-work;—declining from your
main design, to serve a turn here or there. Nothing is beneath you, if
it is in the direction of your life: nothing is great or desirable, if
it is off from that.  I think we are entitled here to draw a straight
line, and say, that society can never prosper, but must always be
bankrupt, until every man does that which he was created to do.

Spend for your expense, and retrench the expense which is not yours.
Allston, the painter, was wont to say, that he built a plain house, and
filled it with plain furniture, because he would hold out no bribe to
any to visit him, who had not similar tastes to his own.  We are
sympathetic, and, like children, want everything we see.  But it is a
large stride to independence,—when a man, in the discovery of his proper
talent, has sunk the necessity for false expenses.  As the betrothed
maiden, by one secure affection, is relieved from a system of
slaveries,—the daily inculcated necessity of pleasing all,—so the man
who has found what he can do, can spend on that, and leave all other
spending.  Montaigne said, "When he was a younger brother, he went brave
in dress and equipage, but afterward his chateau and farms might answer
for him."  Let a man who belongs to the class of nobles, those, namely,
who have found out that they can do something, relieve himself of all
vague squandering on objects not his.  Let the realist not mind
appearances.  Let him delegate to others the costly courtesies and
decorations of social life.  The virtues are economists, but some of the
vices are also. Thus, next to humility, I have noticed that pride is a
pretty good husband.  A good pride is, as I reckon it, worth from five
hundred to fifteen hundred a year.  Pride is handsome, economical: pride
eradicates so many vices, letting none subsist but itself, that it seems
as if it were a great gain to exchange vanity for pride.  Pride can go
without domestics, without fine clothes, can live in a house with two
rooms, can eat potato, purslain, beans, lyed corn, can work on the soil,
can travel afoot, can talk with poor men, or sit silent well-contented
in fine saloons.  But vanity costs money, labor, horses, men, women,
health, and peace, and is still nothing at last, a long way leading
nowhere.—Only one drawback; proud people are intolerably selfish, and
the vain are gentle and giving.

Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting,
poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and
an ill provider, and should be wise in season, and not fetter himself
with duties which will embitter his days, and spoil him for his proper
work.  We had in this region, twenty years ago, among our educated men,
a sort of Arcadian fanaticism, a passionate desire to go upon the land,
and unite farming to intellectual pursuits.  Many effected their
purpose, and made the experiment, and some became downright ploughmen;
but all were cured of their faith that scholarship and practical
farming, (I mean, with one’s own hands,) could be united.

With brow bent, with firm intent, the pale scholar leaves his desk to
draw a freer breath, and get a juster statement of his thought, in the
garden-walk. He stoops to pull up a purslain, or a dock, that is choking
the young corn, and finds there are two: close behind the last, is a
third; he reaches out his hand to a fourth; behind that, are four
thousand and one.  He is heated and untuned, and, by and by, wakes up
from his idiot dream of chickweed and red-root, to remember his morning
thought, and to find, that, with his adamantine purposes, he has been
duped by a dandelion.  A garden is like those pernicious machineries we
read of, every month, in the newspapers, which catch a man’s coat-skirt
or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg, and his whole body to
irresistible destruction.  In an evil hour he pulled down his wall, and
added a field to his homestead.  No land is bad, but land is worse.  If
a man own land, the land owns him. Now let him leave home, if he dare.
Every tree and graft, every hill of melons, row of corn, or quickset
hedge, all he has done, and all he means to do, stand in his way, like
duns, when he would go out of his gate.  The devotion to these vines and
trees he finds poisonous.  Long free walks, a circuit of miles, free his
brain, and serve his body. Long marches are no hardship to him.  He
believes he composes easily on the hills.  But this pottering in a few
square yards of garden is dispiriting and drivelling.  The smell of the
plants has drugged him, and robbed him of energy.  He finds a catalepsy
in his bones.  He grows peevish and poor-spirited.  The genius of
reading and of gardening are antagonistic, like resinous and vitreous
electricity.  One is concentrative in sparks and shocks: the other is
diffuse strength; so that each disqualifies its workman for the other’s

An engraver whose hands must be of an exquisite delicacy of stroke,
should not lay stone walls.  Sir David Brewster gives exact instructions
for microscopic observation:—"Lie down on your back, and hold the single
lens and object over your eye," &c. &c.  How much more the seeker of
abstract truth, who needs periods of isolation, and rapt concentration,
and almost a going out of the body to think!

2. Spend after your genius, _and by system_. Nature goes by rule, not by
sallies and saltations. There must be system in the economies.  Saving
and unexpensiveness will not keep the most pathetic family from ruin,
nor will bigger incomes make free spending safe.  The secret of success
lies never in the amount of money, but in the relation of income to
outgo; as if, after expense has been fixed at a certain point, then new
and steady rills of income, though never so small, being added, wealth
begins.  But in ordinary, as means increase, spending increases faster,
so that, large incomes, in England and elsewhere, are found not to help
matters;—the eating quality of debt does not relax its voracity.  When
the cholera is in the potato, what is the use of planting larger crops?
In England, the richest country in the universe, I was assured by shrewd
observers, that great lords and ladies had no more guineas to give away
than other people; that liberality with money is as rare, and as
immediately famous a virtue as it is here.  Want is a growing giant whom
the coat of Have was never large enough to cover.  I remember in
Warwickshire, to have been shown a fair manor, still in the same name as
in Shakspeare’s time.  The rent-roll, I was told, is some fourteen
thousand pounds a year: but, when the second son of the late proprietor
was born, the father was perplexed how to provide for him.  The eldest
son must inherit the manor; what to do with this supernumerary?  He was
advised to breed him for the Church, and to settle him in the
rectorship, which was in the gift of the family; which was done.  It is
a general rule in that country, that bigger incomes do not help anybody.
It is commonly observed, that a sudden wealth, like a prize drawn in a
lottery, or a large bequest to a poor family, does not permanently
enrich.  They have served no apprenticeship to wealth, and, with the
rapid wealth, come rapid claims: which they do not know how to deny, and
the treasure is quickly dissipated.

A system must be in every economy, or the best single expedients are of
no avail.  A farm is a good thing, when it begins and ends with itself,
and does not need a salary, or a shop, to eke it out. Thus, the cattle
are a main link in the chain-ring. If the non-conformist or æsthetic
farmer leaves out the cattle, and does not also leave out the want which
the cattle must supply, he must fill the gap by begging or stealing.
When men now alive were born, the farm yielded everything that was
consumed on it.  The farm yielded no money, and the farmer got on
without.  If he fell sick, his neighbors came in to his aid: each gave a
day’s work; or a half day; or lent his yoke of oxen, or his horse, and
kept his work even: hoed his potatoes, mowed his hay, reaped his rye;
well knowing that no man could afford to hire labor, without selling his
land.  In autumn, a farmer could sell an ox or a hog, and get a little
money to pay taxes withal. Now, the farmer buys almost all he
consumes,—tin-ware, cloth, sugar, tea, coffee, fish, coal,
railroad-tickets, and newspapers.

A master in each art is required, because the practice is never with
still or dead subjects, but they change in your hands.  You think
farm-buildings and broad acres a solid property: but its value is
flowing like water.  It requires as much watching as if you were
decanting wine from a cask. The farmer knows what to do with it, stops
every leak, turns all the streamlets to one reservoir, and decants wine:
but a blunderhead comes out of Cornhill, tries his hand, and it all
leaks away.  So is it with granite streets, or timber townships, as with
fruit or flowers.  Nor is any investment so permanent, that it can be
allowed to remain without incessant watching, as the history of each
attempt to lock up an inheritance through two generations for an unborn
inheritor may show.

When Mr. Cockayne takes a cottage in the country, and will keep his cow,
he thinks a cow is a creature that is fed on hay, and gives a pail of
milk twice a day.  But the cow that he buys gives milk for three months;
then her bag dries up.  What to do with a dry cow? who will buy her?
Perhaps he bought also a yoke of oxen to do his work; but they get blown
and lame.  What to do with blown and lame oxen?  The farmer fats his,
after the spring-work is done, and kills them in the fall. But how can
Cockayne, who has no pastures, and leaves his cottage daily in the cars,
at business hours, be pothered with fatting and killing oxen? He plants
trees; but there must be crops, to keep the trees in ploughed land.
What shall be the crops?  He will have nothing to do with trees, but
will have grass.  After a year or two, the grass must be turned up and
ploughed: now what crops? Credulous Cockayne!

3. Help comes in the custom of the country, and the rule of _Impera
parendo_.  The rule is not to dictate, nor to insist on carrying out
each of your schemes by ignorant wilfulness, but to learn practically
the secret spoken from all nature, that things themselves refuse to be
mismanaged, and will show to the watchful their own law.  Nobody need
stir hand or foot.  The custom of the country will do it all.  I know
not how to build or to plant; neither how to buy wood, nor what to do
with the house-lot, the field, or the wood-lot, when bought.  Never
fear: it is all settled how it shall be, long beforehand, in the custom
of the country, whether to sand, or whether to clay it, when to plough,
and how to dress, whether to grass, or to corn; and you cannot help or
hinder it.  Nature has her own best mode of doing each thing, and she
has somewhere told it plainly, if we will keep our eyes and ears open.
If not, she will not be slow in undeceiving us, when we prefer our own
way to hers.  How often we must remember the art of the surgeon, which,
in replacing the broken bone, contents itself with releasing the parts
from false position; they fly into place by the action of the muscles.
On this art of nature all our arts rely.

Of the two eminent engineers in the recent construction of railways in
England, Mr. Brunel went straight from terminus to terminus, through
mountains, over streams, crossing highways, cutting ducal estates in
two, and shooting through this man’s cellar, and that man’s attic
window, and so arriving at his end, at great pleasure to geometers, but
with cost to his company.  Mr. Stephenson, on the contrary, believing
that the river knows the way, followed his valley, as implicitly as our
Western Railroad follows the Westfield River, and turned out to be the
safest and cheapest engineer.  We say the cows laid out Boston.  Well,
there are worse surveyors.  Every pedestrian in our pastures has
frequent occasion to thank the cows for cutting the best path through
the thicket, and over the hills: and travellers and Indians know the
value of a buffalo-trail, which is sure to be the easiest possible pass
through the ridge.

When a citizen, fresh from Dock-square, or Milk-street, comes out and
buys land in the country, his first thought is to a fine outlook from
his windows: his library must command a western view: a sunset every
day, bathing the shoulder of Blue Hills, Wachusett, and the peaks of
Monadnoc and Uncanoonuc.  What, thirty acres, and all this magnificence
for fifteen hundred dollars!  It would be cheap at fifty thousand.  He
proceeds at once, his eyes dim with tears of joy, to fix the spot for
his corner-stone.  But the man who is to level the ground, thinks it
will take many hundred loads of gravel to fill the hollow to the road.
The stonemason who should build the well thinks he shall have to dig
forty feet: the baker doubts he shall never like to drive up to the
door: the practical neighbor cavils at the position of the barn; and the
citizen comes to know that his predecessor the farmer built the house in
the right spot for the sun and wind, the spring, and water-drainage, and
the convenience to the pasture, the garden, the field, and the road.  So
Dock-square yields the point, and things have their own way.  Use has
made the farmer wise, and the foolish citizen learns to take his
counsel.  From step to step he comes at last to surrender at discretion.
The farmer affects to take his orders; but the citizen says, You may ask
me as often as you will, and in what ingenious forms, for an opinion
concerning the mode of building my wall, or sinking my well, or laying
out my acre, but the ball will rebound to you.  These are matters on
which I neither know, nor need to know anything.  These are questions
which you and not I shall answer.

Not less, within doors, a system settles itself paramount and tyrannical
over master and mistress, servant and child, cousin and acquaintance.
’Tis in vain that genius or virtue or energy of character strive and cry
against it.  This is fate.  And ’tis very well that the poor husband
reads in a book of a new way of living, and resolves to adopt it at
home: let him go home and try it, if he dare.

4. Another point of economy is to look for seed of the same kind as you
sow: and not to hope to buy one kind with another kind.  Friendship buys
friendship; justice, justice; military merit, military success.  Good
husbandry finds wife, children, and household.  The good merchant large
gains, ships, stocks, and money.  The good poet fame, and literary
credit; but not either, the ether. Yet there is commonly a confusion of
expectations on these points.  Hotspur lives for the moment; praises
himself for it; and despises Furlong, that he does not.  Hotspur, of
course, is poor; and Furlong a good provider.  The odd circumstance is,
that Hotspur thinks it a superiority in himself, this improvidence,
which ought to be rewarded with Furlong’s lands.

I have not at all completed my design.  But we must not leave the topic,
without casting one glance into the interior recesses.  It is a doctrine
of philosophy, that man is a being of degrees; that there is nothing in
the world, which is not repeated in his body; his body being a sort of
miniature or summary of the world: then that there is nothing in his
body, which is not repeated as in a celestial sphere in his mind: then,
there is nothing in his brain, which is not repeated in a higher sphere,
in his moral system.

5. Now these things are so in Nature.  All things ascend, and the royal
rule of economy is, that it should ascend also, or, whatever we do must
always have a higher aim.  Thus it is a maxim, that money is another
kind of blood.  _Pecunia alter sanguis_: or, the estate of a man is only
a larger kind of body, and admits of regimen analogous to his bodily
circulations.  So there is no maxim of the merchant, _e.g._, "Best use
of money is to pay debts;" "Every business by itself;" "Best time is
present time;" "The right investment is in tools of your trade;" or the
like, which does not admit of an extended sense.  The counting-room
maxims liberally expounded are laws of the Universe.  The merchant’s
economy is a coarse symbol of the soul’s economy.  It is, to spend for
power, and not for pleasure.  It is to invest income; that is to say, to
take up particulars into generals; days into integral eras,—literary,
emotive, practical, of its life, and still to ascend in its investment.
The merchant has but one rule, _absorb and invest_: he is to be
capitalist: the scraps and filings must be gathered back into the
crucible; the gas and smoke must be burned, and earnings must not go to
increase expense, but to capital again.  Well, the man must be
capitalist.  Will he spend his income, or will he invest?  His body and
every organ is under the same law.  His body is a jar, in which the
liquor of life is stored.  Will he spend for pleasure?  The way to ruin
is short and facile.  Will he not spend, but hoard for power?  It passes
through the sacred fermentations, by that law of Nature whereby
everything climbs to higher platforms, and bodily vigor becomes mental
and moral vigor.  The bread he eats is first strength and animal
spirits: it becomes, in higher laboratories, imagery and thought; and in
still higher results, courage and endurance.  This is the right compound
interest; this is capital doubled, quadrupled, centupled; man raised to
his highest power.

The true thrift is always to spend on the higher plane; to invest and
invest, with keener avarice, that he may spend in spiritual creation,
and not in augmenting animal existence.  Nor is the man enriched, in
repeating the old experiments of animal sensation, nor unless through
new powers and ascending pleasures, he knows himself by the actual
experience of higher good, to be already on the way to the highest.



    Can rules or tutors educate
    The semigod whom we await?
    He must be musical,
    Tremulous, impressional,
    Alive to gentle influence
    Of landscape and of sky,
    And tender to the spirit-touch
    Of man’s or maiden’s eye:
    But, to his native centre fast,
    Shall into Future fuse the Past,
    And the world’s flowing fates in his own mould recast.


The word of ambition at the present day is Culture.  Whilst all the
world is in pursuit of power, and of wealth as a means of power, culture
corrects the theory of success.  A man is the prisoner of his power.  A
topical memory makes him an almanac; a talent for debate, a disputant;
skill to get money makes him a miser, that is, a beggar.  Culture
reduces these inflammations by invoking the aid of other powers against
the dominant talent, and by appealing to the rank of powers.  It watches
success.  For performance, Nature has no mercy, and sacrifices the
performer to get it done; makes a dropsy or a tympany of him.  If she
wants a thumb, she makes one at the cost of arms and legs, and any
excess of power in one part is usually paid for at once by some defect
in a contiguous part.

Our efficiency depends so much on our concentration, that Nature usually
in the instances where a marked man is sent into the world, overloads
him with bias, sacrificing his symmetry to his working power.  It is
said, no man can write but one book; and if a man have a defect, it is
apt to leave its impression on all his performances.  If she creates a
policeman like Fouché, he is made up of suspicions and of plots to
circumvent them.  "The air," said Fouché, "is full of poniards."  The
physician Sanctorius spent his life in a pair of scales, weighing his
food.  Lord Coke valued Chaucer highly, because the Canon Yeman’s Tale
illustrates the statute _Hen. V. Chap._ 4, against alchemy.  I saw a man
who believed the principal mischiefs in the English state were derived
from the devotion to musical concerts.  A freemason, not long since, set
out to explain to this country, that the principal cause of the success
of General Washington, was, the aid he derived from the freemasons.

But worse than the harping on one string, Nature has secured
individualism, by giving the private person a high conceit of his weight
in the system. The pest of society is egotists.  There are dull and
bright, sacred and profane, coarse and fine egotists. ’Tis a disease
that, like influenza, falls on all constitutions.  In the distemper
known to physicians as _chorea_, the patient sometimes turns round, and
continues to spin slowly on one spot.  Is egotism a metaphysical
varioloid of this malady?  The man runs round a ring formed by his own
talent, falls into an admiration of it, and loses relation to the world.
It is a tendency in all minds.  One of its annoying forms, is a craving
for sympathy.  The sufferers parade their miseries, tear the lint from
their bruises, reveal their indictable crimes, that you may pity them.
They like sickness, because physical pain will extort some show of
interest from the bystanders, as we have seen children, who, finding
themselves of no account when grown people come in, will cough till they
choke, to draw attention.

This distemper is the scourge of talent,—of artists, inventors, and
philosophers.  Eminent spiritualists shall have an incapacity of putting
their act or word aloof from them, and seeing it bravely for the nothing
it is.  Beware of the man who says, "I am on the eve of a revelation."
It is speedily punished, inasmuch as this habit invites men to humor it,
and by treating the patient tenderly, to shut him up in a narrower
selfism, and exclude him from the great world of God’s cheerful fallible
men and women.  Let us rather be insulted, whilst we are insultable.
Religious literature has eminent examples, and if we run over our
private list of poets, critics, philanthropists, and philosophers, we
shall find them infected with this dropsy and elephantiasis, which we
ought to have tapped.

This goitre of egotism is so frequent among notable persons, that we
must infer some strong necessity in nature which it subserves; such as
we see in the sexual attraction.  The preservation of the species was a
point of such necessity, that Nature has secured it at all hazards by
immensely overloading the passion, at the risk of perpetual crime and
order.  So egotism has its root in the cardinal necessity by which each
individual persists to be what he is.

This individuality is not only not inconsistent with culture, but is the
basis of it.  Every valuable nature is there in its own right, and the
student we speak to must have a motherwit invincible by his culture,
which uses all books, arts, facilities, and elegancies of intercourse,
but is never subdued and lost in them.  He only is a well-made man who
has a good determination.  And the end of culture is not to destroy
this, God forbid! but to train away all impediment and mixture, and
leave nothing but pure power.  Our student must have a style and
determination, and be a master in his own specialty. But, having this,
he must put it behind him.  He must have a catholicity, a power to see
with a free and disengaged look every object.  Yet is this private
interest and self so overcharged, that, if a man seeks a companion who
can look at objects for their own sake, and without affection or
self-reference, he will find the fewest who will give him that
satisfaction; whilst most men are afflicted with a coldness, an
incuriosity, as soon as any object does not connect with their
self-love.  Though they talk of the object before them, they are
thinking of themselves, and their vanity is laying little traps for your

But after a man has discovered that there are limits to the interest
which his private history has for mankind, he still converses with his
family, or a few companions,—perhaps with half a dozen personalities
that are famous in his neighborhood.  In Boston, the question of life is
the names of some eight or ten men.  Have you seen Mr. Allston, Doctor
Channing, Mr. Adams, Mr. Webster, Mr. Greenough?  Have you heard
Everett, Garrison, Father Taylor, Theodore Parker?  Have you talked with
Messieurs Turbinewheel, Summitlevel, and Lacofrupees?  Then you may as
well die.  In New York, the question is of some other eight, or ten, or
twenty.  Have you seen a few lawyers, merchants, and brokers,—two or
three scholars, two or three capitalists, two or three editors of
newspapers?  New York is a sucked orange.  All conversation is at an
end, when we have discharged ourselves of a dozen personalities,
domestic or imported, which make up our American existence. Nor do we
expect anybody to be other than a faint copy of these heroes.

Life is very narrow.  Bring any club or company of intelligent men
together again after ten years, and if the presence of some penetrating
and calming genius could dispose them to frankness, what a confession of
insanities would come up!  The "causes" to which we have sacrificed,
Tariff or Democracy, Whigism or Abolition, Temperance or Socialism,
would show like roots of bitterness and dragons of wrath: and our
talents are as mischievous as if each had been seized upon by some bird
of prey, which had whisked him away from fortune, from truth, from the
dear society of the poets, some zeal, some bias, and only when he was,
now gray and nerveless, was it relaxing its claws, and he awaking to
sober perceptions.

Culture is the suggestion from certain best thoughts, that a man has a
range of affinities, through which he can modulate the violence of any
master-tones that have a droning preponderance in his scale, and succor
him against himself.  Culture redresses his balance, puts him among his
equals and superiors, revives the delicious sense of sympathy, and warns
him of the dangers of solitude and repulsion.

’Tis not a compliment but a disparagement to consult a man only on
horses, or on steam, or on theatres, or on eating, or on books, and,
whenever he appears, considerately to turn the conversation to the
bantling he is known to fondle.  In the Norse heaven of our forefathers,
Thor’s house had five hundred and forty floors; and man’s house has five
hundred and forty floors.  His excellence is facility of adaptation and
of transition through many related points, to wide contrasts and
extremes.  Culture kills his exaggeration, his conceit of his village or
his city.  We must leave our pets at home, when we go into the street,
and meet men on broad grounds of good meaning and good sense. No
performance is worth loss of geniality.  ’Tis a cruel price we pay for
certain fancy goods called fine arts and philosophy.  In the Norse
legend, Allfadir did not get a drink of Mimir’s spring, (the fountain of
wisdom,) until he left his eye in pledge.  And here is a pedant that
cannot unfold his wrinkles, nor conceal his wrath at interruption by the
best, if their conversation do not fit his impertinency,—here is he to
afflict us with his personalities.  ’Tis incident to scholars, that each
of them fancies he is pointedly odious in his community. Draw him out of
this limbo of irritability. Cleanse with healthy blood his parchment
skin. You restore to him his eyes which he left in pledge at Mimir’s
spring.  If you are the victim of your doing, who cares what you do?  We
can spare your opera, your gazetteer, your chemic analysis, your
history, your syllogisms.  Your man of genius pays dear for his
distinction.  His head runs up into a spire, and instead of a healthy
man, merry and wise, he is some mad dominie.  Nature is reckless of the
individual.  When she has points to carry, she carries them.  To wade in
marshes and sea-margins is the destiny of certain birds, and they are so
accurately made for this, that they are imprisoned in those places.
Each animal out of its _habitat_ would starve.  To the physician, each
man, each woman, is an amplification of one organ.  A soldier, a
locksmith, a bank-clerk, and a dancer could not exchange functions.  And
thus we are victims of adaptation.

The antidotes against this organic egotism, are, the range and variety
of attractions, as gained by acquaintance with the world, with men of
merit, with classes of society, with travel, with eminent persons, and
with the high resources of philosophy, art, and religion: books, travel,
society, solitude.

The hardiest skeptic who has seen a horse broken, a pointer trained, or,
who has visited a menagerie, or the exhibition of the Industrious Fleas,
will not deny the validity of education.  "A boy," says Plato, "is the
most vicious of all wild beasts;" and, in the same spirit, the old
English poet Gascoigne says, "a boy is better unborn than untaught."
The city breeds one kind of speech and manners; the back-country a
different style; the sea, another; the army, a fourth.  We know that an
army which can be confided in, may be formed by discipline; that, by
systematic discipline all men may be made heroes: Marshal Lannes said to
a French officer, "Know, Colonel, that none but a poltroon will boast
that he never was afraid."  A great part of courage is the courage of
having done the thing before.  And, in all human action, those faculties
will be strong which are used.  Robert Owen said, "Give me a tiger, and
I will educate him."  ’Tis inhuman to want faith in the power of
education, since to meliorate, is the law of nature; and men are valued
precisely as they exert onward or meliorating force.  On the other hand,
poltroonery is the acknowledging an inferiority to be incurable.

Incapacity of melioration is the only mortal distemper.  There are
people who can never understand a trope, or any second or expanded sense
given to your words, or any humor; but remain literalists, after hearing
the music, and poetry, and rhetoric, and wit, of seventy or eighty
years.  They are past the help of surgeon or clergy.  But even these can
understand pitchforks and the cry of fire! and I have noticed in some of
this class a marked dislike of earthquakes.

Let us make our education brave and preventive. Politics is an
after-work, a poor patching.  We are always a little late.  The evil is
done, the law is passed, and we begin the up-hill agitation for repeal
of that of which we ought to have prevented the enacting.  We shall one
day learn to supersede politics by education.  What we call our
root-and-branch reforms of slavery, war, gambling, intemperance, is only
medicating the symptoms.  We must begin higher up, namely, in Education.

Our arts and tools give to him who can handle them much the same
advantage over the novice, as if you extended his life, ten, fifty, or a
hundred years.  And I think it the part of good sense to provide every
fine soul with such culture, that it shall not, at thirty or forty
years, have to say, "This which I might do is made hopeless through my
want of weapons."

But it is conceded that much of our training fails of effect; that all
success is hazardous and rare; that a large part of our cost and pains
is thrown away.  Nature takes the matter into her own hands, and, though
we must not omit any jot of our system, we can seldom be sure that it
has availed much, or, that as much good would not have accrued from a
different system.

Books, as containing the finest records of human wit, must always enter
into our notion of culture. The best heads that ever existed, Pericles,
Plato, Julius Cæsar, Shakspeare, Goethe, Milton, were well-read,
universally educated men, and quite too wise to undervalue letters.
Their opinion has weight, because they had means of knowing the opposite
opinion.  We look that a great man should be a good reader, or, in
proportion to the spontaneous power should be the assimilating power.
Good criticism is very rare, and always precious. I am always happy to
meet persons who perceive the transcendent superiority of Shakspeare
over all other writers.  I like people who like Plato. Because this love
does not consist with self-conceit.

But books are good only as far as a boy is ready for them.  He sometimes
gets ready very slowly. You send your child to the schoolmaster, but
’tis the schoolboys who educate him.  You send him to the Latin class,
but much of his tuition comes, on his way to school, from the
shop-windows.  You like the strict rules and the long terms; and he
finds his best leading in a by-way of his own, and refuses any
companions but of his choosing.  He hates the grammar and _Gradus_, and
loves guns, fishing-rods, horses, and boats.  Well, the boy is right;
and you are not fit to direct his bringing up, if your theory leaves out
his gymnastic training. Archery, cricket, gun and fishing-rod, horse and
boat, are all educators, liberalizers; and so are dancing, dress, and
the street-talk; and,—provided only the boy has resources, and is of a
noble and ingenuous strain,—these will not serve him less than the
books.  He learns chess, whist, dancing, and theatricals.  The father
observes that another boy has learned algebra and geometry in the same
time.  But the first boy has acquired much more than these poor games
along with them.  He is infatuated for weeks with whist and chess; but
presently will find out, as you did, that when he rises from the game
too long played, he is vacant and forlorn, and despises himself.
Thenceforward it takes place with other things, and has its due weight
in his experience.  These minor skills and accomplishments, for example,
dancing, are tickets of admission to the dress-circle of mankind, and
the being master of them enables the youth to judge intelligently of
much, on which, otherwise, he would give a pedantic squint.  Landor
said, "I have suffered more from my bad dancing, than from all the
misfortunes and miseries of my life put together."  Provided always the
boy is teachable, (for we are not proposing to make a statue out of
punk,) football, cricket, archery, swimming, skating, climbing, fencing,
riding, are lessons in the art of power, which it is his main business
to learn;—riding, specially, of which Lord Herbert of Cherbury said, "a
good rider on a good horse is as much above himself and others as the
world can make him."  Besides, the gun, fishing-rod, boat, and horse,
constitute, among all who use them, secret freemasonries.  They are as
if they belonged to one club.

There is also a negative value in these arts. Their chief use to the
youth, is, not amusement, but to be known for what they are, and not to
remain to him occasions of heart-burn.  We are full of superstitions.
Each class fixes its eyes on the advantages it has not; the refined, on
rude strength; the democrat, on birth and breeding.  One of the benefits
of a college education is, to show the boy its little avail.  I knew a
leading man in a leading city, who, having set his heart on an education
at the university, and missed it, could never quite feel himself the
equal of his own brothers who had gone thither.  His easy superiority to
multitudes of professional men could never quite countervail to him this
imaginary defect.  Balls, riding, wine-parties, and billiards, pass to a
poor boy for something fine and romantic, which they are not; and a free
admission to them on an equal footing, if it were possible, only once or
twice, would be worth ten times its cost, by undeceiving him.

I am not much an advocate for travelling, and I observe that men run
away to other countries, because they are not good in their own, and run
back to their own, because they pass for nothing in the new places.  For
the most part, only the light characters travel.  Who are you that have
no task to keep you at home?  I have been quoted as saying captious
things about travel; but I mean to do justice.  I think, there is a
restlessness in our people, which argues want of character.  All
educated Americans, first or last, go to Europe;—perhaps, because it is
their mental home, as the invalid habits of this country might suggest.
An eminent teacher of girls said, "the idea of a girl’s education, is,
whatever qualifies them for going to Europe."  Can we never extract this
tape-worm of Europe from the brain of our countrymen?  One sees very
well what their fate must be.  He that does not fill a place at home,
cannot abroad.  He only goes there to hide his insignificance in a
larger crowd.  You do not think you will find anything there which you
have not seen at home?  The stuff of all countries is just the same.  Do
you suppose, there is any country where they do not scald milkpans, and
swaddle the infants, and burn the brushwood, and broil the fish? What is
true anywhere is true everywhere.  And let him go where he will, he can
only find so much beauty or worth as he carries.

Of course, for some men, travel may be useful. Naturalists, discoverers,
and sailors are born.  Some men are made for couriers, exchangers,
envoys, missionaries, bearers of despatches, as others are for farmers
and working-men.  And if the man is of a light and social turn, and
Nature has aimed to make a legged and winged creature, framed for
locomotion, we must follow her hint, and furnish him with that breeding
which gives currency, as sedulously as with that which gives worth.  But
let us not be pedantic, but allow to travel its full effect. The boy
grown up on the farm, which he has never left, is said in the country to
have had no chance, and boys and men of that condition look upon work on
a railroad, or drudgery in a city, as opportunity. Poor country boys of
Vermont and Connecticut formerly owed what knowledge they had, to their
peddling trips to the Southern States.  California and the Pacific Coast
is now the university of this class, as Virginia was in old times.  ’To
have some chance’ is their word.  And the phrase ’to know the world,’ or
to travel, is synonymous with all men’s ideas of advantage and
superiority.  No doubt, to a man of sense, travel offers advantages. As
many languages as he has, as many friends, as many arts and trades, so
many times is he a man. A foreign country is a point of comparison,
wherefrom to judge his own.  One use of travel, is, to recommend the
books and works of home; [we go to Europe to be Americanized;] and
another, to find men.  For, as Nature has put fruits apart in latitudes,
a new fruit in every degree, so knowledge and fine moral quality she
lodges in distant men. And thus, of the six or seven teachers whom each
man wants among his contemporaries, it often happens, that one or two of
them live on the other side of the world.

Moreover, there is in every constitution a certain solstice, when the
stars stand still in our inward firmament, and when there is required
some foreign force, some diversion or alterative to prevent stagnation.
And, as a medical remedy, travel seems one of the best.  Just as a man
witnessing the admirable effect of ether to lull pain, and meditating on
the contingencies of wounds, cancers, lockjaws, rejoices in Dr.
Jackson’s benign discovery, so a man who looks at Paris, at Naples, or
at London, says, ’If I should be driven from my own home, here, at
least, my thoughts can be consoled by the most prodigal amusement and
occupation which the human race in ages could contrive and accumulate.’

Akin to the benefit of foreign travel, the æsthetic value of railroads
is to unite the advantages of town and country life, neither of which we
can spare. A man should live in or near a large town, because, let his
own genius be what it may, it will repel quite as much of agreeable and
valuable talent as it draws, and, in a city, the total attraction of all
the citizens is sure to conquer, first or last, every repulsion, and
drag the most improbable hermit within its walls some day in the year.
In town, he can find the swimming-school, the gymnasium, the
dancing-master, the shooting-gallery, opera, theatre, and panorama; the
chemist’s shop, the museum of natural history; the gallery of fine arts;
the national orators, in their turn; foreign travellers, the libraries,
and his club.  In the country, he can find solitude and reading, manly
labor, cheap living, and his old shoes; moors for game, hills for
geology, and groves for devotion.  Aubrey writes, "I have heard Thomas
Hobbes say, that, in the Earl of Devon’s house, in Derbyshire, there was
a good library and books enough for him, and his lordship stored the
library with what books he thought fit to be bought.  But the want of
good conversation was a very great inconvenience, and, though he
conceived he could order his thinking as well as another, yet he found a
great defect.  In the country, in long time, for want of good
conversation, one’s understanding and invention contract a moss on them,
like an old paling in an orchard."

Cities give us collision.  ’Tis said, London and New York take the
nonsense out of a man.  A great part of our education is sympathetic and
social.  Boys and girls who have been brought up with well-informed and
superior people, show in their manners an inestimable grace.  Fuller
says, that "William, Earl of Nassau, won a subject from the King of
Spain, every time he put off his hat."  You cannot have one well-bred
man, without a whole society of such.  They keep each other up to any
high point.  Especially women;—it requires a great many cultivated
women,—saloons of bright, elegant, reading women, accustomed to ease and
refinement, to spectacles, pictures, sculpture, poetry, and to elegant
society, in order that you should have one Madame de Staël.  The head of
a commercial house, or a leading lawyer or politician is brought into
daily contact with troops of men from all parts of the country, and
those too the driving-wheels, the business men of each section, and one
can hardly suggest for an apprehensive man a more searching culture.
Besides, we must remember the high social possibilities of a million of
men.  The best bribe which London offers to-day to the imagination, is,
that, in such a vast variety of people and conditions, one can believe
there is room for persons of romantic character to exist, and that the
poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront their counterparts.

I wish cities could teach their best lesson,—of quiet manners.  It is
the foible especially of American youth,—pretension.  The mark of the
man of the world is absence of pretension.  He does not make a speech;
he takes a low business-tone, avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses
plainly, promises not at all, performs much, speaks in monosyllables,
hugs his fact.  He calls his employment by its lowest name, and so takes
from evil tongues their sharpest weapon.  His conversation clings to the
weather and the news, yet he allows himself to be surprised into
thought, and the unlocking of his learning and philosophy.  How the
imagination is piqued by anecdotes of some great man passing incognito,
as a king in gray clothes,—of Napoleon affecting a plain suit at his
glittering levee; of Burns, or Scott, or Beethoven, or Wellington, or
Goethe, or any container of transcendent power, passing for nobody; of
Epaminondas, "who never says anything, but will listen eternally;" of
Goethe, who preferred trifling subjects and common expressions in
intercourse with strangers, worse rather than better clothes, and to
appear a little more capricious than he was.  There are advantages in
the old hat and box-coat.  I have heard, that, throughout this country,
a certain respect is paid to good broadcloth; but dress makes a little
restraint: men will not commit themselves.  But the box-coat is like
wine; it unlocks the tongue, and men say what they think.  An old poet

      "Go far and go sparing,
    For you’ll find it certain,
    The poorer and the baser you appear,
    The more you’ll look through still."²

    ² Beaumont and Fletcher: _The Tamer Tamed_.

Not much otherwise Milnes writes, in the "Lay of the Humble,"

    "To me men are for what they are,
    They wear no masks with me."

’Tis odd that our people should have—not water on the brain,—but a
little gas there.  A shrewd foreigner said of the Americans, that,
"whatever they say has a little the air of a speech."  Yet one of the
traits down in the books as distinguishing the Anglo-Saxon, is, a trick
of self-disparagement.  To be sure, in old, dense countries, among a
million of good coats, a fine coat comes to be no distinction, and you
find humorists.  In an English party, a man with no marked manners or
features, with a face like red dough, unexpectedly discloses wit,
learning, a wide range of topics, and personal familiarity with good men
in all parts of the world, until you think you have fallen upon some
illustrious personage.  Can it be that the American forest has refreshed
some weeds of old Pictish barbarism just ready to die out,—the love of
the scarlet feather, of beads, and tinsel?  The Italians are fond of red
clothes, peacock plumes, and embroidery; and I remember one rainy
morning in the city of Palermo, the street was in a blaze with scarlet
umbrellas.  The English have a plain taste.  The equipages of the
grandees are plain.  A gorgeous livery indicates new and awkward city
wealth. Mr. Pitt, like Mr. Pym, thought the title of _Mister_ good
against any king in Europe.  They have piqued themselves on governing
the whole world in the poor, plain, dark Committee-room which the House
of Commons sat in, before the fire.

Whilst we want cities as the centres where the best things are found,
cities degrade us by magnifying trifles.  The countryman finds the town
a chophouse, a barber’s shop.  He has lost the lines of grandeur of the
horizon, hills and plains, and with them, sobriety and elevation.  He
has come among a supple, glib-tongued tribe, who live for show, servile
to public opinion.  Life is dragged down to a fracas of pitiful cares
and disasters.  You say the gods ought to respect a life whose objects
are their own; but in cities they have betrayed you to a cloud of
insignificant annoyances:

    "Mirmidons, race féconde,
    Enfin nous commandons;
    Jupiter livre le monde
    Aux mirmidons, aux mirmidons."³

    ’Tis heavy odds
    Against the gods,
    When they will match with myrmidons.
    We spawning, spawning myrmidons,
    Our turn to-day! we take command,
    Jove gives the globe into the hand
    Of myrmidons, of myrmidons.

    ³ Béranger.

What is odious but noise, and people who scream and bewail? people whose
vane points always east, who live to dine, who send for the doctor, who
coddle themselves, who toast their feet on the register, who intrigue to
secure a padded chair, and a corner out of the draught.  Suffer them
once to begin the enumeration of their infirmities, and the sun will go
down on the unfinished tale.  Let these triflers put us out of conceit
with petty comforts.  To a man at work, the frost is but a color: the
rain, the wind, he forgot them when he came in.  Let us learn to live
coarsely, dress plainly, and lie hard. The least habit of dominion over
the palate has certain good effects not easily estimated.  Neither will
we be driven into a quiddling abstemiousness.  ’Tis a superstition to
insist on a special diet.  All is made at last of the same chemical

A man in pursuit of greatness feels no little wants.  How can you mind
diet, bed, dress, or salutes or compliments, or the figure you make in
company, or wealth, or even the bringing things to pass, when you think
how paltry are the machinery and the workers?  Wordsworth was praised to
me, in Westmoreland, for having afforded to his country neighbors an
example of a modest household where comfort and culture were secured,
without display. And a tender boy who wears his rusty cap and outgrown
coat, that he may secure the coveted place in college, and the right in
the library, is educated to some purpose.  There is a great deal of
self-denial and manliness in poor and middle-class houses, in town and
country, that has not got into literature, and never will, but that
keeps the earth sweet; that saves on superfluities, and spends on
essentials; that goes rusty, and educates the boy; that sells the horse,
but builds the school; works early and late, takes two looms in the
factory, three looms, six looms, but pays off the mortgage on the
paternal farm, and then goes back cheerfully to work again.

We can ill spare the commanding social benefits of cities; they must be
used; yet cautiously, and haughtily,—and will yield their best values to
him who best can do without them.  Keep the town for occasions, but the
habits should be formed to retirement.  Solitude, the safeguard of
mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend, the cold, obscure shelter
where moult the wings which will bear it farther than suns and stars.
He who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling
with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and
writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.  "In the
morning,—solitude;" said Pythagoras; that Nature may speak to the
imagination, as she does never in company, and that her favorite may
make acquaintance with those divine strengths which disclose themselves
to serious and abstracted thought.  ’Tis very certain that Plato,
Plotinus, Archimedes, Hermes, Newton, Milton, Wordsworth, did not live
in a crowd, but descended into it from time to time as benefactors: and
the wise instructor will press this point of securing to the young soul
in the disposition of time and the arrangements of living, periods and
habits of solitude.  The high advantage of university-life is often the
mere mechanical one, I may call it, of a separate chamber and
fire,—which parents will allow the boy without hesitation at Cambridge,
but do not think needful at home.  We say solitude, to mark the
character of the tone of thought; but if it can be shared between two or
more than two, it is happier, and not less noble. "We four," wrote
Neander to his sacred friends, "will enjoy at Halle the inward
blessedness of a _civitas Dei_, whose foundations are forever
friendship.  The more I know you, the more I dissatisfy and must
dissatisfy all my wonted companions. Their very presence stupefies me.
The common understanding withdraws itself from the one centre of all

Solitude takes off the pressure of present importunities that more
catholic and humane relations may appear.  The saint and poet seek
privacy to ends the most public and universal: and it is the secret of
culture, to interest the man more in his public, than in his private
quality.  Here is a new poem, which elicits a good many comments in the
journals, and in conversation.  From these it is easy, at last, to
eliminate the verdict which readers passed upon it; and that is, in the
main, unfavorable. The poet, as a craftsman, is only interested in the
praise accorded to him, and not in the censure, though it be just.  And
the poor little poet hearkens only to that, and rejects the censure, as
proving incapacity in the critic.  But the poet _cultivated_ becomes a
stockholder in both companies,—say Mr. Curfew,—in the Curfew stock, and
in the _humanity_ stock; and, in the last, exults as much in the
demonstration of the unsoundness of Curfew, as his interest in the
former gives him pleasure in the currency of Curfew.  For, the
depreciation of his Curfew stock only shows the immense values of the
humanity stock.  As soon as he sides with his critic against himself,
with joy, he is a cultivated man.

We must have an intellectual quality in all property and in all action,
or they are nought.  I must have children, I must have events, I must
have a social state and history, or my thinking and speaking want body
or basis.  But to give these accessories any value, I must know them as
contingent and rather showy possessions, which pass for more to the
people than to me.  We see this abstraction in scholars, as a matter of
course: but what a charm it adds when observed in practical men.
Bonaparte, like Cæsar, was intellectual, and could look at every object
for itself, without affection.  Though an egotist _à l’outrance_, he
could criticize a play, a building, a character, on universal grounds,
and give a just opinion.  A man known to us only as a celebrity in
politics or in trade, gains largely in our esteem if we discover that he
has some intellectual taste or skill; as when we learn of Lord Fairfax,
the Long Parliament’s general, his passion for antiquarian studies; or
of the French regicide Carnot, his sublime genius in mathematics; or of
a living banker, his success in poetry; or of a partisan journalist, his
devotion to ornithology.  So, if in travelling in the dreary
wildernesses of Arkansas or Texas, we should observe on the next seat a
man reading Horace, or Martial, or Calderon, we should wish to hug him.
In callings that require roughest energy, soldiers, sea-captains, and
civil engineers sometimes betray a fine insight, if only through a
certain gentleness when off duty; a good-natured admission that there
are illusions, and who shall say that he is not their sport? We only
vary the phrase, not the doctrine, when we say, that culture opens the
sense of beauty. A man is a beggar who only lives to the useful, and,
however he may serve as a pin or rivet in the social machine, cannot be
said to have arrived at self-possession.  I suffer, every day, from the
want of perception of beauty in people.  They do not know the charm with
which all moments and objects can be embellished, the charm of manners,
of self-command, of benevolence.  Repose and cheerfulness are the badge
of the gentleman,—repose in energy.  The Greek battle-pieces are calm;
the heroes, in whatever violent actions engaged, retain a serene aspect;
as we say of Niagara, that it falls without speed.  A cheerful,
intelligent face is the end of culture, and success enough. For it
indicates the purpose of Nature and wisdom attained.

When our higher faculties are in activity, we are domesticated, and
awkwardness and discomfort give place to natural and agreeable
movements.  It is noticed, that the consideration of the great periods
and spaces of astronomy induces a dignity of mind, and an indifference
to death.  The influence of fine scenery, the presence of mountains,
appeases our irritations and elevates our friendships.  Even a high
dome, and the expansive interior of a cathedral, have a sensible effect
on manners.  I have heard that stiff people lose something of their
awkwardness under high ceilings, and in spacious halls. I think,
sculpture and painting have an effect to teach us manners, and abolish

But, over all, culture must reinforce from higher influx the empirical
skills of eloquence, or of politics, or of trade, and the useful arts.
There is a certain loftiness of thought and power to marshal and adjust
particulars, which can only come from an insight of their whole
connection.  The orator who has once seen things in their divine order,
will never quite lose sight of this, and will come to affairs as from a
higher ground, and, though he will say nothing of philosophy, he will
have a certain mastery in dealing with them, and an incapableness of
being dazzled or frighted, which will distinguish his handling from that
of attorneys and factors.  A man who stands on a good footing with the
heads of parties at Washington, reads the rumors of the newspapers, and
the guesses of provincial politicians, with a key to the right and wrong
in each statement, and sees well enough where all this will end.
Archimedes will look through your Connecticut machine, at a glance, and
judge of its fitness. And much more, a wise man who knows not only what
Plato, but what Saint John can show him, can easily raise the affair he
deals with, to a certain majesty.  Plato says, Pericles owed this
elevation to the lessons of Anaxagoras.  Burke descended from a higher
sphere when he would influence human affairs.  Franklin, Adams,
Jefferson, Washington, stood on a fine humanity, before which the brawls
of modern senates are but pot-house politics.

But there are higher secrets of culture, which are not for the
apprentices, but for proficients. These are lessons only for the brave.
We must know our friends under ugly masks.  The calamities are our
friends.  Ben Jonson specifies in his address to the Muse:—

    "Get him the time’s long grudge, the court’s ill-will,
    And, reconciled, keep him suspected still,
    Make him lose all his friends, and, what is worse,
    Almost all ways to any better course;
    With me thou leav’st a better Muse than thee,
    And which thou brought’st me, blessed Poverty."

We wish to learn philosophy by rote, and play at heroism.  But the wiser
God says, Take the shame, the poverty, and the penal solitude, that
belong to truth-speaking.  Try the rough water as well as the smooth.
Rough water can teach lessons worth knowing.  When the state is unquiet,
personal qualities are more than ever decisive.  Fear not a revolution
which will constrain you to live five years in one.  Don’t be so tender
at making an enemy now and then.  Be willing to go to Coventry
sometimes, and let the populace bestow on you their coldest contempts.
The finished man of the world must eat of every apple once.  He must
hold his hatreds also at arm’s length, and not remember spite.  He has
neither friends nor enemies, but values men only as channels of power.

He who aims high, must dread an easy home and popular manners.  Heaven
sometimes hedges a rare character about with ungainliness and odium, as
the burr that protects the fruit.  If there is any great and good thing
in store for you, it will not come at the first or the second call, nor
in the shape of fashion, ease, and city drawing-rooms.  Popularity is
for dolls.  "Steep and craggy," said Porphyry, "is the path of the
gods."  Open your Marcus Antoninus.  In the opinion of the ancients, he
was the great man who scorned to shine, and who contested the frowns of
fortune.  They preferred the noble vessel too late for the tide,
contending with winds and waves, dismantled and unrigged, to her
companion borne into harbor with colors flying and guns firing.  There
is none of the social goods that may not be purchased too dear, and mere
amiableness must not take rank with high aims and self-subsistency.

Bettine replies to Goethe’s mother, who chides her disregard of
dress,—"If I cannot do as I have a mind, in our poor Frankfort, I shall
not carry things far."  And the youth must rate at its true mark the
inconceivable levity of local opinion. The longer we live, the more we
must endure the elementary existence of men and women; and every brave
heart must treat society as a child, and never allow it to dictate.

"All that class of the severe and restrictive virtues," said Burke, "are
almost too costly for humanity."  Who wishes to be severe?  Who wishes
to resist the eminent and polite, in behalf of the poor, and low, and
impolite? and who that dares do it, can keep his temper sweet, his
frolic spirits?  The high virtues are not debonair, but have their
redress in being illustrious at last. What forests of laurel we bring,
and the tears of mankind, to those who stood firm against the opinion of
their contemporaries!  The measure of a master is his success in
bringing all men round to his opinion twenty years later.

Let me say here, that culture cannot begin too early.  In talking with
scholars, I observe that they lost on ruder companions those years of
boyhood which alone could give imaginative literature a religious and
infinite quality in their esteem.  I find, too, that the chance for
appreciation is much increased by being the son of an appreciator, and
that these boys who now grow up are caught not only years too late, but
two or three births too late, to make the best scholars of.  And I think
it a presentable motive to a scholar, that, as, in an old community, a
well-born proprietor is usually found, after the first heats of youth,
to be a careful husband, and to feel a habitual desire that the estate
shall suffer no harm by his administration, but shall be delivered down
to the next heir in as good condition as he received it;—so, a
considerate man will reckon himself a subject of that secular
melioration by which mankind is mollified, cured, and refined, and will
shun every expenditure of his forces on pleasure or gain, which will
jeopardize this social and secular accumulation.

The fossil strata show us that Nature began with rudimental forms, and
rose to the more complex, as fast as the earth was fit for their
dwelling-place; and that the lower perish, as the higher appear.  Very
few of our race can be said to be yet finished men. We still carry
sticking to us some remains of the preceding inferior quadruped
organization.  We call these millions men; but they are not yet men.
Half-engaged in the soil, pawing to get free, man needs all the music
that can be brought to disengage him.  If Love, red Love, with tears and
joy; if Want with his scourge; if War with his cannonade; if
Christianity with its charity; if Trade with its money; if Art with its
portfolios; if Science with her telegraphs through the deeps of space
and time; can set his dull nerves throbbing, and by loud taps on the
tough chrysalis, can break its walls, and let the new creature emerge
erect and free,—make way, and sing pæan!  The age of the quadruped is to
go out,—the age of the brain and of the heart is to come in.  The time
will come when the evil forms we have known can no more be organized.
Man’s culture can spare nothing, wants all the material.  He is to
convert all impediments into instruments, all enemies into power.  The
formidable mischief will only make the more useful slave. And if one
shall read the future of the race hinted in the organic effort of Nature
to mount and meliorate, and the corresponding impulse to the Better in
the human being, we shall dare affirm that there is nothing he will not
overcome and convert, until at last culture shall absorb the chaos and
gehenna. He will convert the Furies into Muses, and the hells into



    Grace, Beauty, and Caprice
    Build this golden portal;
    Graceful women, chosen men
    Dazzle every mortal:
    Their sweet and lofty countenance
    His enchanting food;
    He need not go to them, their forms
    Beset his solitude.
    He looketh seldom in their face,
    His eyes explore the ground,
    The green grass is a looking-glass
    Whereon their traits are found.
    Little he says to them,
    So dances his heart in his breast,
    Their tranquil mien bereaveth him
    Of wit, of words, of rest.
    Too weak to win, too fond to shun
    The tyrants of his doom,
    The much deceived Endymion
    Slips behind a tomb.


The soul which animates Nature is not less significantly published in
the figure, movement, and gesture of animated bodies, than in its last
vehicle of articulate speech.  This silent and subtile language is
Manners; not _what_, but _how_.  Life expresses.  A statue has no
tongue, and needs none.  Good tableaux do not need declamation. Nature
tells every secret once.  Yes, but in man she tells it all the time, by
form, attitude, gesture, mien, face, and parts of the face, and by the
whole action of the machine.  The visible carriage or action of the
individual, as resulting from his organization and his will combined, we
call manners. What are they but thought entering the hands and feet,
controlling the movements of the body, the speech and behavior?

There is always a best way of doing everything, if it be to boil an egg.
Manners are the happy ways of doing things; each once a stroke of genius
or of love,—now repeated and hardened into usage. They form at last a
rich varnish, with which the routine of life is washed, and its details
adorned. If they are superficial, so are the dew-drops which give such a
depth to the morning meadows. Manners are very communicable: men catch
them from each other.  Consuelo, in the romance, boasts of the lessons
she had given the nobles in manners, on the stage; and, in real life,
Talma taught Napoleon the arts of behavior.  Genius invents fine
manners, which the baron and the baroness copy very fast, and, by the
advantage of a palace, better the instruction.  They stereotype the
lesson they have learned into a mode.

The power of manners is incessant,—an element as unconcealable as fire.
The nobility cannot in any country be disguised, and no more in a
republic or a democracy, than in a kingdom.  No man can resist their
influence.  There are certain manners which are learned in good society,
of that force, that, if a person have them, he or she must be
considered, and is everywhere welcome, though without beauty, or wealth,
or genius.  Give a boy address and accomplishments, and you give him the
mastery of palaces and fortunes where he goes. He has not the trouble of
earning or owning them; they solicit him to enter and possess.  We send
girls of a timid, retreating disposition to the boarding-school, to the
riding-school, to the ballroom, or wheresoever they can come into
acquaintance and nearness of leading persons of their own sex; where
they might learn address, and see it near at hand. The power of a woman
of fashion to lead, and also to daunt and repel, derives from their
belief that she knows resources and behaviors not known to them; but
when these have mastered her secret, they learn to confront her, and
recover their self-possession.

Every day bears witness to their gentle rule. People who would obtrude,
now do not obtrude. The mediocre circle learns to demand that which
belongs to a high state of nature or of culture. Your manners are always
under examination, and by committees little suspected,—a police in
citizens’ clothes,—but are awarding or denying you very high prizes when
you least think of it.

We talk much of utilities,—but ’tis our manners that associate us.  In
hours of business, we go to him who knows, or has, or does this or that
which we want, and we do not let our taste or feeling stand in the way.
But this activity over, we return to the indolent state, and wish for
those we can be at ease with: those who will go where we go, whose
manners do not offend us, whose social tone chimes with ours.  When we
reflect on their persuasive and cheering force; how they recommend,
prepare, and draw people together; how, in all clubs, manners make the
members; how manners make the fortune of the ambitious youth; that, for
the most part, his manners marry him, and, for the most part, he marries
manners; when we think what keys they are, and to what secrets; what
high lessons and inspiring tokens of character they convey; and what
divination is required in us, for the reading of this fine telegraph, we
see what range the subject has, and what relations to convenience,
power, and beauty.

Their first service is very low,—when they are the minor morals: but
’tis the beginning of civility,—to make us, I mean, endurable to each
other. We prize them for their rough-plastic, abstergent force; to get
people out of the quadruped state; to get them washed, clothed, and set
up on end; to slough their animal husks and habits; compel them to be
clean; overawe their spite and meanness, teach them to stifle the base,
and choose the generous expression, and make them know how much happier
the generous behaviors are.

Bad behavior the laws cannot reach.  Society is infested with rude,
cynical, restless, and frivolous persons who prey upon the rest, and
whom, a public opinion concentrated into good manners, forms accepted by
the sense of all, can reach:—the contradictors and railers at public and
private tables, who are like terriers, who conceive it the duty of a dog
of honor to growl at any passer-by, and do the honors of the house by
barking him out of sight:—I have seen men who neigh like a horse when
you contradict them, or say something which they do not understand:—then
the overbold, who make their own invitation to your hearth; the
persevering talker, who gives you his society in large, saturating
doses; the pitiers of themselves,—a perilous class; the frivolous
Asmodeus, who relies on you to find him in ropes of sand to twist; the
monotones; in short, every stripe of absurdity;—these are social
inflictions which the magistrate cannot cure or defend you from, and
which must be intrusted to the restraining force of custom, and
proverbs, and familiar rules of behavior impressed on young people in
their school-days.

In the hotels on the banks of the Mississippi, they print, or used to
print, among the rules of the house, that "no gentleman can be permitted
to come to the public table without his coat;" and in the same country,
in the pews of the churches, little placards plead with the worshipper
against the fury of expectoration.  Charles Dickens self-sacrificingly
undertook the reformation of our American manners in unspeakable
particulars.  I think the lesson was not quite lost; that it held bad
manners up, so that the churls could see the deformity. Unhappily, the
book had its own deformities.  It ought not to need to print in a
reading-room a caution to strangers not to speak loud; nor to persons
who look over fine engravings, that they should be handled like cobwebs
and butterflies’ wings; nor to persons who look at marble statues, that
they shall not smite them with canes.  But, even in the perfect
civilization of this city, such cautions are not quite needless in the
Athenæum and City Library.

Manners are factitious, and grow out of circumstance as well as out of
character.  If you look at the pictures of patricians and of peasants,
of different periods and countries, you will see how well they match the
same classes in our towns.  The modern aristocrat not only is well drawn
in Titian’s Venetian doges, and in Roman coins and statues, but also in
the pictures which Commodore Perry brought home of dignitaries in Japan.
Broad lands and great interests not only arrive to such heads as can
manage them, but form manners of power.  A keen eye, too, will see nice
gradations of rank, or see in the manners the degree of homage the party
is wont to receive.  A prince who is accustomed every day to be courted
and deferred to by the highest grandees, acquires a corresponding
expectation, and a becoming mode of receiving and replying to this

There are always exceptional people and modes. English grandees affect
to be farmers.  Claverhouse is a fop, and, under the finish of dress,
and levity of behavior, hides the terror of his war.  But Nature and
Destiny are honest, and never fail to leave their mark, to hang out a
sign for each and for every quality.  It is much to conquer one’s face,
and perhaps the ambitious youth thinks he has got the whole secret when
he has learned, that disengaged manners are commanding.  Don’t be
deceived by a facile exterior.  Tender men sometimes have strong wills.
We had, in Massachusetts, an old statesman, who had sat all his life in
courts and in chairs of state, without overcoming an extreme
irritability of face, voice, and bearing: when he spoke, his voice would
not serve him; it cracked, it broke, it wheezed, it piped;—little cared
he; he knew that it had got to pipe, or wheeze, or screech his argument
and his indignation.  When he sat down, after speaking, he seemed in a
sort of fit, and held on to his chair with both hands: but underneath
all this irritability, was a puissant will, firm, and advancing, and a
memory in which lay in order and method like geologic strata every fact
of his history, and under the control of his will.

Manners are partly factitious, but, mainly, there must be capacity for
culture in the blood.  Else all culture is vain.  The obstinate
prejudice in favor of blood, which lies at the base of the feudal and
monarchical fabrics of the old world, has some reason in common
experience.  Every man,—mathematician, artist, soldier, or
merchant,—looks with confidence for some traits and talents in his own
child, which he would not dare to presume in the child of a stranger.
The Orientalists are very orthodox on this point.  "Take a thorn-bush,"
said the emir Abdel-Kader, "and sprinkle it for a whole year with
water;—it will yield nothing but thorns. Take a date-tree, leave it
without culture, and it will always produce dates.  Nobility is the
date-tree, and the Arab populace is a bush of thorns."

A main fact in the history of manners is the wonderful expressiveness of
the human body.  If it were made of glass, or of air, and the thoughts
were written on steel tablets within, it could not publish more truly
its meaning than now.  Wise men read very sharply all your private
history in your look and gait and behavior.  The whole economy of nature
is bent on expression.  The tell-tale body is all tongues.  Men are like
Geneva watches with crystal faces which expose the whole movement.  They
carry the liquor of life flowing up and down in these beautiful bottles,
and announcing to the curious how it is with them. The face and eyes
reveal what the spirit is doing, how old it is, what aims it has.  The
eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul, or, through how many forms it
has already ascended.  It almost violates the proprieties, if we say
above the breath here, what the confessing eyes do not hesitate to utter
to every street passenger.

Man cannot fix his eye on the sun, and so far seems imperfect.  In
Siberia, a late traveller found men who could see the satellites of
Jupiter with their unarmed eye.  In some respects the animals excel us.
The birds have a longer sight, beside the advantage by their wings of a
higher observatory. A cow can bid her calf by secret signal, probably of
the eye, to run away, or to lie down and hide itself.  The jockeys say
of certain horses, that "they look over the whole ground."  The outdoor
life, and hunting, and labor, give equal vigor to the human eye.  A
farmer looks out at you as strong as the horse; his eye-beam is like the
stroke of a staff.  An eye can threaten like a loaded and levelled gun,
or can insult like hissing or kicking; or, in its altered mood, by beams
of kindness, it can make the heart dance with joy.

The eye obeys exactly the action of the mind. When a thought strikes us,
the eyes fix, and remain gazing at a distance; in enumerating the names
of persons or of countries, as France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, the eyes
wink at each new name.  There is no nicety of learning sought by the
mind, which the eyes do not vie in acquiring. "An artist," said Michel
Angelo, "must have his measuring tools not in the hand, but in the eye;"
and there is no end to the catalogue of its performances, whether in
indolent vision, (that of health and beauty,) or in strained vision,
(that of art and labor.)

Eyes are bold as lions,—roving, running, leaping, here and there, far
and near.  They speak all languages.  They wait for no introduction;
they are no Englishmen; ask no leave of age, or rank; they respect
neither poverty nor riches, neither learning nor power, nor virtue, nor
sex, but intrude, and come again, and go through and through you, in a
moment of time.  What inundation of life and thought is discharged from
one soul into another, through them!  The glance is natural magic.  The
mysterious communication established across a house between two entire
strangers, moves all the springs of wonder.  The communication by the
glance is in the greatest part not subject to the control of the will.
It is the bodily symbol of identity of nature.  We look into the eyes to
know if this other form is another self, and the eyes will not lie, but
make a faithful confession what inhabitant is there.  The revelations
are sometimes terrific.  The confession of a low, usurping devil is
there made, and the observer shall seem to feel the stirring of owls,
and bats, and horned hoofs, where he looked for innocence and
simplicity.  ’Tis remarkable, too, that the spirit that appears at the
windows of the house does at once invest himself in a new form of his
own, to the mind of the beholder.

The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage,
that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood all the
world over.  When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a
practised man relies on the language of the first.  If the man is off
his centre, the eyes show it.  You can read in the eyes of your
companion, whether your argument hits him, though his tongue will not
confess it.  There is a look by which a man shows he is going to say a
good thing, and a look when he has said it.  Vain and forgotten are all
the fine offers and offices of hospitality, if there is no holiday in
the eye. How many furtive inclinations avowed by the eye, though
dissembled by the lips!  One comes away from a company, in which, it may
easily happen, he has said nothing, and no important remark has been
addressed to him, and yet, if in sympathy with the society, he shall not
have a sense of this fact, such a stream of life has been flowing into
him, and out from him, through the eyes.  There are eyes, to be sure,
that give no more admission into the man than blueberries.  Others are
liquid and deep,—wells that a man might fall into;—others are aggressive
and devouring, seem to call out the police, take all too much notice,
and require crowded Broadways, and the security of millions, to protect
individuals against them.  The military eye I meet, now darkly sparkling
under clerical, now under rustic brows.  ’Tis the city of Lacedæmon;
’tis a stack of bayonets.  There are asking eyes, asserting eyes,
prowling eyes; and eyes full of fate,—some of good, and some of sinister
omen. The alleged power to charm down insanity, or ferocity in beasts,
is a power behind the eye.  It must be a victory achieved in the will,
before it can be signified in the eye.  ’Tis very certain that each man
carries in his eye the exact indication of his rank in the immense scale
of men, and we are always learning to read it.  A complete man should
need no auxiliaries to his personal presence. Whoever looked on him
would consent to his will, being certified that his aims were generous
and universal. The reason why men do not obey us, is because they see
the mud at the bottom of our eye.

If the organ of sight is such a vehicle of power, the other features
have their own.  A man finds room in the few square inches of the face
for the traits of all his ancestors; for the expression of all his
history, and his wants.  The sculptor, and Winckelmann, and Lavater,
will tell you how significant a feature is the nose; how its forms
express strength or weakness of will, and good or bad temper.  The nose
of Julius Cæsar, of Dante, and of Pitt, suggest "the terrors of the
beak."  What refinement, and what limitations, the teeth betray! "Beware
you don’t laugh," said the wise mother, "for then you show all your

Balzac left in manuscript a chapter, which he called "_Théorie de la
démarche_" in which he says: "The look, the voice, the respiration, and
the attitude or walk, are identical.  But, as it has not been given to
man, the power to stand guard, at once, over these four different
simultaneous expressions of his thought, watch that one which speaks out
the truth, and you will know the whole man."

Palaces interest us mainly in the exhibition of manners, which, in the
idle and expensive society dwelling in them, are raised to a high art.
The maxim of courts is, that manner is power.  A calm and resolute
bearing, a polished speech, an embellishment of trifles, and the art of
hiding all uncomfortable feeling, are essential to the courtier: and
Saint Simon, and Cardinal de Retz, and Roederer, and an encyclopædia of
Mémoires, will instruct you, if you wish, in those potent secrets.
Thus, it is a point of pride with kings, to remember faces and names.
It is reported of one prince, that his head had the air of leaning
downwards, in order not to humble the crowd.  There are people who come
in ever like a child with a piece of good news.  It was said of the late
Lord Holland, that he always came down to breakfast with the air of a
man who had just met with some signal good-fortune.  In "_Notre Dame_,"
the grandee took his place on the dais, with the look of one who is
thinking of something else.  But we must not peep and eavesdrop at

Fine manners need the support of fine manners in others.  A scholar may
be a well-bred man, or he may not.  The enthusiast is introduced to
polished scholars in society, and is chilled and silenced by finding
himself not in their element.  They all have somewhat which he has not,
and, it seems, ought to have.  But if he finds the scholar apart from
his companions, it is then the enthusiast’s turn, and the scholar has no
defence, but must deal on his terms.  Now they must fight the battle out
on their private strengths.  What is the talent of that character so
common,—the successful man of the world,—in all marts, senates, and
drawing-rooms?  Manners: manners of power; sense to see his advantage,
and manners up to it.  See him approach his man.  He knows that troops
behave as they are handled at first;—that is his cheap secret; just what
happens to every two persons who meet on any affair,—one instantly
perceives that he has the key of the situation, that his will
comprehends the other’s will, as the cat does the mouse; and he has only
to use courtesy, and furnish good-natured reasons to his victim to cover
up the chain, lest he be shamed into resistance.

The theatre in which this science of manners has a formal importance is
not with us a court, but dress-circles, wherein, after the close of the
day’s business, men and women meet at leisure, for mutual entertainment,
in ornamented drawing-rooms. Of course, it has every variety of
attraction and merit; but, to earnest persons, to youths or maidens who
have great objects at heart, we cannot extol it highly.  A well-dressed,
talkative company, where each is bent to amuse the other.—yet the
high-born Turk who came hither fancied that every woman seemed to be
suffering for a chair; that all the talkers were brained and exhausted
by the deoxygenated air: it spoiled the best persons: it put all on
stilts.  Yet here are the secret biographies written and read.  The
aspect of that man is repulsive: I do not wish to deal with him.  The
other is irritable, shy, and on his guard.  The youth looks humble and
manly: I choose him.  Look on this woman.  There is not beauty, nor
brilliant sayings, nor distinguished power to serve you; but all see her
gladly; her whole air and impression are healthful.  Here come the
sentimentalists, and the invalids.  Here is Elise, who caught cold in
coming into the world, and has always increased it since.  Here are
creep-mouse manners; and thievish manners.  "Look at Northcote," said
Fuseli; "he looks like a rat that has seen a cat."  In the shallow
company, easily excited, easily tired, here is the columnar Bernard: the
Alleghanies do not express more repose than his behavior.  Here are the
sweet following eyes of Cecile: it seemed always that she demanded the
heart.  Nothing can be more excellent in kind than the Corinthian grace
of Gertrude’s manners, and yet Blanche, who has no manners, has better
manners than she; for the movements of Blanche are the sallies of a
spirit which is sufficient for the moment, and she can afford to express
every thought by instant action.

Manners have been somewhat cynically defined to be a contrivance of wise
men to keep fools at a distance.  Fashion is shrewd to detect those who
do not belong to her train, and seldom wastes her attentions.  Society
is very swift in its instincts, and, if you do not belong to it, resists
and sneers at you; or quietly drops you.  The first weapon enrages the
party attacked; the second is still more effective, but is not to be
resisted, as the date of the transaction is not easily found.  People
grow up and grow old under this infliction, and never suspect the truth,
ascribing the solitude which acts on them very injuriously, to any cause
but the right one.

The basis of good manners is self-reliance.  Necessity is the law of all
who are not self-possessed. Those who are not self-possessed, obtrude,
and pain us.  Some men appear to feel that they belong to a Pariah
caste.  They fear to offend, they bend and apologize, and walk through
life with a timid step. As we sometimes dream that we are in a
well-dressed company without any coat, so Godfrey acts ever as if he
suffered from some mortifying circumstance.  The hero should find
himself at home, wherever he is; should impart comfort by his own
security and good-nature to all beholders.  The hero is suffered to be
himself.  A person of strong mind comes to perceive that for him an
immunity is secured so long as he renders to society that service which
is native and proper to him,—an immunity from all the observances, yea,
and duties, which society so tyrannically imposes on the rank and file
of its members.  "Euripides," says Aspasia, "has not the fine manners of
Sophocles; but,"—she adds good-humoredly, "the movers and masters of our
souls have surely a right to throw out their limbs as carelessly as they
please, on the world that belongs to them, and before the creatures they
have animated."⁴

    ⁴ Landor: Pericles and Aspasia.

Manners require time, as nothing is more vulgar than haste.  Friendship
should be surrounded with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into
corners.  Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually
command.  Here comes to me Roland, with a delicacy of sentiment leading
and inwrapping him like a divine cloud or holy ghost.  ’Tis a great
destitution to both that this should not be entertained with large
leisures, but contrariwise should be balked by importunate affairs.

But through this lustrous varnish, the reality is ever shining.  ’Tis
hard to keep the _what_ from breaking through this pretty painting of
the _how_. The core will come to the surface.  Strong will and keen
perception overpower old manners, and create new; and the thought of the
present moment has a greater value than all the past.  In persons of
character, we do not remark manners, because of their instantaneousness.
We are surprised by the thing done, out of all power to watch the way of
it.  Yet nothing is more charming than to recognize the great style
which runs through the actions of such.  People masquerade before us in
their fortunes, titles, offices, and connections, as academic or civil
presidents, or senators, or professors, or great lawyers, and impose on
the frivolous, and a good deal on each other, by these fames.  At least,
it is a point of prudent good manners to treat these reputations
tenderly, as if they were merited. But the sad realist knows these
fellows at a glance, and they know him; as when in Paris the chief of
the police enters a ballroom, so many diamonded pretenders shrink and
make themselves as inconspicuous as they can, or give him a supplicating
look as they pass.  "I had received," said a sibyl, "I had received at
birth the fatal gift of penetration:"—and these Cassandras are always

Manners impress as they indicate real power.  A man who is sure of his
point, carries a broad and contented expression, which everybody reads.
And you cannot rightly train one to an air and manner, except by making
him the kind of man of whom that manner is the natural expression.
Nature forever puts a premium on reality.  What is done for effect, is
seen to be done for effect; what is done for love, is felt to be done
for love.  A man inspires affection and honor, because he was not lying
in wait for these.  The things of a man for which we visit him, were
done in the dark and the cold.  A little integrity is better than any
career.  So deep are the sources of this surface-action, that even the
size of your companion seems to vary with his freedom of thought.  Not
only is he larger, when at ease, and his thoughts generous, but
everything around him becomes variable with expression.  No carpenter’s
rule, no rod and chain, will measure the dimensions of any house or
house-lot: go into the house: if the proprietor is constrained and
deferring, ’tis of no importance how large his house, how beautiful his
grounds,—you quickly come to the end of all: but if the man is
self-possessed, happy, and at home, his house is deep-founded,
indefinitely large and interesting, the roof and dome buoyant as the
sky.  Under the humblest roof, the commonest person in plain clothes
sits there massive, cheerful, yet formidable like the Egyptian colossi.

Neither Aristotle, nor Leibnitz, nor Junius, nor Champollion has set
down the grammar-rules of this dialect, older than Sanscrit; but they
who cannot yet read English, can read this.  Men take each other’s
measure, when they meet for the first time,—and every time they meet.
How do they get this rapid knowledge, even before they speak, of each
other’s power and dispositions?  One would say, that the persuasion of
their speech is not in what they say,—or, that men do not convince by
their argument,—but by their personality, by who they are, and what they
said and did heretofore. A man already strong is listened to, and
everything he says is applauded.  Another opposes him with sound
argument, but the argument is scouted, until by and by it gets into the
mind of some weighty person; then it begins to tell on the community.

Self-reliance is the basis of behavior, as it is the guaranty that the
powers are not squandered in too much demonstration.  In this country,
where school education is universal, we have a superficial culture, and
a profusion of reading and writing and expression.  We parade our
nobilities in poems and orations, instead of working them up into
happiness. There is a whisper out of the ages to him who can understand
it,—’whatever is known to thyself alone, has always very great value.’
There is some reason to believe, that, when a man does not write his
poetry, it escapes by other vents through him, instead of the one vent
of writing; clings to his form and manners, whilst poets have often
nothing poetical about them except their verses.  Jacobi said, that
"when a man has fully expressed his thought, he has somewhat less
possession of it."  One would say, the rule is,—What a man is
irresistibly urged to say, helps him and us.  In explaining his thought
to others, he explains it to himself: but when he opens it for show, it
corrupts him.

Society is the stage on which manners are shown; novels are their
literature.  Novels are the journal or record of manners; and the new
importance of these books derives from the fact, that the novelist
begins to penetrate the surface, and treat this part of life more
worthily.  The novels used to be all alike, and had a quite vulgar tone.
The novels used to lead us on to a foolish interest in the fortunes of
the boy and girl they described. The boy was to be raised from a humble
to a high position.  He was in want of a wife and a castle, and the
object of the story was to supply him with one or both.  We watched
sympathetically, step by step, his climbing, until, at last, the point
is gained, the wedding day is fixed, and we follow the gala procession
home to the castle, when the doors are slammed in our face, and the poor
reader is left outside in the cold, not enriched by so much as an idea,
or a virtuous impulse.

But the victories of character are instant, and victories for all.  Its
greatness enlarges all.  We are fortified by every heroic anecdote.  The
novels are as useful as Bibles, if they teach you the secret, that the
best of life is conversation, and the greatest success is confidence, or
perfect understanding between sincere people.  ’Tis a French definition
of friendship, _rien que s’entendre_, good understanding. The highest
compact we can make with our fellow, is,—’Let there be truth between us
two for evermore.’  That is the charm in all good novels, as it is the
charm in all good histories, that the heroes mutually understand, from
the first, and deal loyally, and with a profound trust in each other. It
is sublime to feel and say of another, I need never meet, or speak, or
write to him: we need not reinforce ourselves, or send tokens of
remembrance: I rely on him as on myself: if he did thus or thus, I know
it was right.

In all the superior people I have met, I notice directness, truth spoken
more truly, as if everything of obstruction, of malformation, had been
trained away.  What have they to conceal?  What have they to exhibit?
Between simple and noble persons, there is always a quick intelligence:
they recognize at sight, and meet on a better ground than the talents
and skills they may chance to possess, namely, on sincerity and
uprightness.  For, it is not what talents or genius a man has, but how
he is to his talents, that constitutes friendship and character.  The
man that stands by himself, the universe stands by him also.  It is
related of the monk Basle, that, being excommunicated by the Pope, he
was, at his death, sent in charge of an angel to find a fit place of
suffering in hell; but, such was the eloquence and good-humor of the
monk, that, wherever he went he was received gladly, and civilly
treated, even by the most uncivil angels: and, when he came to discourse
with them, instead of contradicting or forcing him, they took his part,
and adopted his manners: and even good angels came from far, to see him,
and take up their abode with him.  The angel that was sent to find a
place of torment for him, attempted to remove him to a worse pit, but
with no better success; for such was the contented spirit of the monk,
that he found something to praise in every place and company, though in
hell, and made a kind of heaven of it.  At last the escorting angel
returned with his prisoner to them that sent him, saying, that no
phlegethon could be found that would burn him; for that, in whatever
condition, Basle remained incorrigibly Basle.  The legend says, his
sentence was remitted, and he was allowed to go into heaven, and was
canonized as a saint.

There is a stroke of magnanimity in the correspondence of Bonaparte with
his brother Joseph, when the latter was King of Spain, and complained
that he missed in Napoleon’s letters the affectionate tone which had
marked their childish correspondence. "I am sorry," replies Napoleon,
"you think you shall find your brother again only in the Elysian Fields.
It is natural, that at forty, he should not feel towards you as he did
at twelve.  But his feelings towards you have greater truth and
strength. His friendship has the features of his mind."

How much we forgive to those who yield us the rare spectacle of heroic
manners!  We will pardon them the want of books, of arts, and even of
the gentler virtues.  How tenaciously we remember them!  Here is a
lesson which I brought along with me in boyhood from the Latin School,
and which ranks with the best of Roman anecdotes. Marcus Scaurus was
accused by Quintus Varius Hispanus, that he had excited the allies to
take arms against the Republic.  But he, full of firmness and gravity,
defended himself in this manner: "Quintus Varius Hispanus alleges that
Marcus Scaurus, President of the Senate, excited the allies to arms:
Marcus Scaurus, President of the Senate, denies it.  There is no
witness.  Which do you believe, Romans?"  "_Utri creditis, Quirites?_"
When he had said these words, he was absolved by the assembly of the

I have seen manners that make a similar impression with personal beauty;
that give the like exhilaration, and refine us like that; and, in
memorable experiences, they are suddenly better than beauty, and make
that superfluous and ugly.  But they must be marked by fine perception,
the acquaintance with real beauty.  They must always show self-control:
you shall not be facile, apologetic, or leaky, but king over your word;
and every gesture and action shall indicate power at rest.  Then they
must be inspired by the good heart.  There is no beautifier of
complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not
pain around us.

’Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night’s lodging.  ’Tis better
to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a
companion.  We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture,
which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light.  Special
precepts are not to be thought of: the talent of well-doing contains
them all.  Every hour will show a duty as paramount as that of my whim
just now; and yet I will write it,—that there is one topic peremptorily
forbidden to all well-bred, to all rational mortals, namely, their
distempers.  If you have not slept, or if you have slept, or if you have
headache, or sciatica, or leprosy, or thunder-stroke, I beseech you, by
all angels, to hold your peace, and not pollute the morning, to which
all the housemates bring serene and pleasant thoughts, by corruption and
groans.  Come out of the azure. Love the day.  Do not leave the sky out
of your landscape.  The oldest and the most deserving person should come
very modestly into any newly awaked company, respecting the divine
communications, out of which all must be presumed to have newly come.
An old man who added an elevating culture to a large experience of life,
said to me, "When you come into the room, I think I will study how to
make humanity beautiful to you."

As respects the delicate question of culture, I do not think that any
other than negative rules can be laid down.  For positive rules, for
suggestion, Nature alone inspires it.  Who dare assume to guide a youth,
a maid, to perfect manners?—the golden mean is so delicate,
difficult,—say frankly, unattainable.  What finest hands would not be
clumsy to sketch the genial precepts of the young girl’s demeanor?  The
chances seem infinite against success; and yet success is continually
attained. There must not be secondariness, and ’tis a thousand to one
that her air and manner will at once betray that she is not primary, but
that there is some other one or many of her class, to whom she
habitually postpones herself.  But Nature lifts her easily, and without
knowing it, over these impossibilities, and we are continually surprised
with graces and felicities not only unteachable, but undescribable.



    This is he, who, felled by foes,
    Sprung harmless up, refreshed by blows
    He to captivity was sold,
    But him no prison-bars would hold:
    Though they sealed him in a rock,
    Mountain chains he can unlock:
    Thrown to lions for their meat,
    The crouching lion kissed his feet:
    Bound to the stake, no flames appalled,
    But arched o’er him an honoring vault.
    This is he men miscall Fate,
    Threading dark ways, arriving late,
    But ever coming in time to crown
    The truth, and hurl wrongdoers down.
    He is the oldest, and best known,
    More near than aught thou call’st thy own,
    Yet, greeted in another’s eyes,
    Disconcerts with glad surprise.
    This is Jove, who, deaf to prayers,
    Floods with blessings unawares.
    Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line,
    Severing rightly his from thine,
    Which is human, which divine.


Some of my friends have complained, when the preceding papers were read,
that we discussed Fate, Power, and Wealth, on too low a platform; gave
too much line to the evil spirit of the times; too many cakes to
Cerberus; that we ran Cudworth’s risk of making, by excess of candor,
the argument of atheism so strong, that he could not answer it. I have
no fears of being forced in my own despite to play, as we say, the
devil’s attorney.  I have no infirmity of faith; no belief that it is of
much importance what I or any man may say: I am sure that a certain
truth will be said through me, though I should be dumb, or though I
should try to say the reverse.  Nor do I fear skepticism for any good
soul.  A just thinker will allow full swing to his skepticism.  I dip my
pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my
inkpot. I have no sympathy with a poor man I knew, who, when suicides
abounded, told me he dared not look at his razor.  We are of different
opinions at different hours, but we always may be said to be at heart on
the side of truth.

I see not why we should give ourselves such sanctified airs.  If the
Divine Providence has hid from men neither disease, nor deformity, nor
corrupt society, but has stated itself out in passions, in war, in
trade, in the love of power and pleasure, in hunger and need, in
tyrannies, literatures, and arts,—let us not be so nice that we cannot
write these facts down coarsely as they stand, or doubt but there is a
counter-statement as ponderous, which we can arrive at, and which, being
put, will make all square.  The solar system has no anxiety about its
reputation, and the credit of truth and honesty is as safe; nor have I
any fear that a skeptical bias can be given by leaning hard on the sides
of fate, of practical power, or of trade, which the doctrine of Faith
cannot down-weigh.  The strength of that principle is not measured in
ounces and pounds: it tyrannizes at the centre of Nature. We may well
give skepticism as much line as we can.  The spirit will return, and
fill us.  It drives the drivers.  It counterbalances any accumulations
of power.

    "Heaven kindly gave our blood a moral flow."

We are born loyal.  The whole creation is made of hooks and eyes, of
bitumen, of sticking-plaster, and whether your community is made in
Jerusalem or in California, of saints or of wreckers, it coheres in a
perfect ball.  Men as naturally make a state, or a church, as
caterpillars a web.  If they were more refined, it would be less formal,
it would be nervous, like that of the Shakers, who, from long habit of
thinking and feeling together, it is said, are affected in the same way,
at the same time, to work and to play, and as they go with perfect
sympathy to their tasks in the field or shop, so are they inclined for a
ride or a journey at the same instant, and the horses come up with the
family carriage unbespoken to the door.

We are born believing.  A man bears beliefs, as a tree bears apples.  A
self-poise belongs to every particle; and a rectitude to every mind, and
is the Nemesis and protector of every society.  I and my neighbors have
been bred in the notion, that, unless we came soon to some good
church,—Calvinism, or Behmenism, or Romanism, or Mormonism,—there would
be a universal thaw and dissolution. No Isaiah or Jeremy has arrived.
Nothing can exceed the anarchy that has followed in our skies. The stern
old faiths have all pulverized.  ’Tis a whole population of gentlemen
and ladies out in search of religions.  ’Tis as flat anarchy in our
ecclesiastic realms, as that which existed in Massachusetts, in the
Revolution, or which prevails now on the slope of the Rocky Mountains or
Pike’s Peak.  Yet we make shift to live.  Men are loyal. Nature has
self-poise in all her works; certain proportions in which oxygen and
azote combine, and, not less a harmony in faculties, a fitness in the
spring and the regulator.

The decline of the influence of Calvin, or Fenelon, or Wesley, or
Channing, need give us no uneasiness.  The builder of heaven has not so
ill constructed his creature as that the religion, that is, the public
nature, should fall out: the public and the private element, like north
and south, like inside and outside, like centrifugal and centripetal,
adhere to every soul, and cannot be subdued, except the soul is
dissipated.  God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches
and religions.

In the last chapters, we treated some particulars of the question of
culture.  But the whole state of man is a state of culture; and its
flowering and completion may be described as Religion, or Worship.
There is always some religion, some hope and fear extended into the
invisible,—from the blind boding which nails a horseshoe to the mast or
the threshold, up to the song of the Elders in the Apocalypse.  But the
religion cannot rise above the state of the votary.  Heaven always bears
some proportion to earth.  The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal,
of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.  In all
ages, souls out of time, extraordinary, prophetic, are born, who are
rather related to the system of the world, than to their particular age
and locality. These announce absolute truths, which, with whatever
reverence received, are speedily dragged down into a savage
interpretation.  The interior tribes of our Indians, and some of the
Pacific islanders, flog their gods, when things take an unfavorable
turn.  The Greek poets did not hesitate to let loose their petulant wit
on their deities also.  Laomedon, in his anger at Neptune and Apollo,
who had built Troy for him, and demanded their price, does not hesitate
to menace them that he will cut their ears off.⁵  Among our Norse
forefathers, King Olaf’s mode of converting Eyvind to Christianity was
to put a pan of glowing coals on his belly, which burst asunder.  "Wilt
thou now, Eyvind, believe in Christ?" asks Olaf, in excellent faith.
Another argument was an adder put into the mouth of the reluctant
disciple Rand, who refused to believe.

    ⁵ Iliad, Book xxi. 1. 455.

Christianity, in the romantic ages, signified European culture,—the
grafted or meliorated tree in a crab forest.  And to marry a pagan wife
or husband, was to marry Beast, and voluntarily to take a step backwards
towards the baboon.

    "Hengist had verament
    A daughter both fair and gent,
    But she was heathen Sarazine,
    And Vortigern for love fine
    Her took to fere and to wife,
    And was cursed in all his life;
    For he let Christian wed heathen,
    And mixed our blood as flesh and mathen."⁶

    ⁶ Moths or worms

What Gothic mixtures the Christian creed drew from the pagan sources,
Richard of Devizes’s chronicle of Richard I.’s crusade, in the twelfth
century, may show.  King Richard taunts God with forsaking him: "O fie!
O how unwilling should I be to forsake thee, in so forlorn and dreadful
a position, were I thy lord and advocate, as thou art mine.  In sooth,
my standards will in future be despised, not through my fault, but
through thine: in sooth, not through any cowardice of my warfare, art
thou thyself, my king and my God conquered, this day, and not Richard
thy vassal."  The religion of the early English poets is anomalous, so
devout and so blasphemous, in the same breath.  Such is Chaucer’s
extraordinary confusion of heaven and earth in the picture of Dido.

      "She was so fair,
    So young, so lusty, with her eyen glad,
    That if that God that heaven and earthe made
    Would have a love for beauty and goodness,
    And womanhede, truth, and seemliness,
    Whom should he loven but this lady sweet?
    There n’ is no woman to him half so meet."

With these grossnesses, we complacently compare our own taste and
decorum.  We think and speak with more temperance and gradation,—but is
not indifferentism as bad as superstition?

We live in a transition period, when the old faiths which comforted
nations, and not only so, but made nations, seem to have spent their
force. I do not find the religions of men at this moment very creditable
to them, but either childish and insignificant, or unmanly and
effeminating.  The fatal trait is the divorce between religion and
morality.  Here are know-nothing religions, or churches that proscribe
intellect; scortatory religions; slave-holding and slave-trading
religions; and, even in the decent populations, idolatries wherein the
whiteness of the ritual covers scarlet indulgence.  The lover of the old
religion complains that our contemporaries, scholars as well as
merchants, succumb to a great despair,—have corrupted into a timorous
conservatism, and believe in nothing.  In our large cities, the
population is godless, materialized,—no bond, no fellow-feeling, no
enthusiasm.  These are not men, but hungers, thirsts, fevers, and
appetites walking.  How is it people manage to live on,—so aimless as
they are?  After their peppercorn aims are gained, it seems as if the
lime in their bones alone held them together, and not any worthy
purpose.  There is no faith in the intellectual, none in the moral
universe.  There is faith in chemistry, in meat, and wine, in wealth, in
machinery, in the steam-engine, galvanic battery, turbine-wheels, sewing
machines, and in public opinion, but not in divine causes.  A silent
revolution has loosed the tension of the old religious sects, and, in
place of the gravity and permanence of those societies of opinion, they
run into freak and extravagance. In creeds never was such levity;
witness the heathenisms in Christianity, the periodic "revivals," the
Millennium mathematics, the peacock ritualism, the retrogression to
Popery, the maundering of Mormons, the squalor of Mesmerism, the
deliration of rappings, the rat and mouse revelation, thumps in
table-drawers, and black art.  The architecture, the music, the prayer,
partake of the madness: the arts sink into shift and make-believe.  Not
knowing what to do, we ape our ancestors; the churches stagger backward
to the mummeries of the dark ages.  By the irresistible maturing of the
general mind, the Christian traditions have lost their hold. The dogma
of the mystic offices of Christ being dropped, and he standing on his
genius as a moral teacher, ’tis impossible to maintain the old emphasis
of his personality; and it recedes, as all persons must, before the
sublimity of the moral laws. From this change, and in the momentary
absence of any religious genius that could offset the immense material
activity, there is a feeling that religion is gone.  When Paul Leroux
offered his article "_Dieu_" to the conductor of a leading French
journal, he replied, "_La question de Dieu manque d’actualité_."  In
Italy, Mr. Gladstone said of the late King of Naples, "it has been a
proverb, that he has erected the negation of God into a system of
government."  In this country, the like stupefaction was in the air, and
the phrase "higher law" became a political jibe.  What proof of
infidelity, like the toleration and propagandism of slavery?  What, like
the direction of education?  What, like the facility of conversion?
What, like the externality of churches that once sucked the roots of
right and wrong, and now have perished away till they are a speck of
whitewash on the wall?  What proof of skepticism like the base rate at
which the highest mental and moral gifts are held?  Let a man attain the
highest and broadest culture that any American has possessed, then let
him die by sea-storm, railroad collision, or other accident, and all
America will acquiesce that the best thing has happened to him; that,
after the education has gone far, such is the expensiveness of America,
that the best use to put a fine person to, is, to drown him to save his

Another scar of this skepticism is the distrust in human virtue.  It is
believed by well-dressed proprietors that there is no more virtue than
they possess; that the solid portion of society exist for the arts of
comfort: that life is an affair to put somewhat between the upper and
lower mandibles. How prompt the suggestion of a low motive! Certain
patriots in England devoted themselves for years to creating a public
opinion that should break down the corn-laws and establish free trade.
’Well,’ says the man in the street, ’Cobden got a stipend out of it.’
Kossuth fled hither across the ocean to try if he could rouse the New
World to a sympathy with European liberty.  ’Aye,’ says New York, ’he
made a handsome thing of it, enough to make him comfortable for life.’

See what allowance vice finds in the respectable and well-conditioned
class.  If a pickpocket intrude into the society of gentlemen, they
exert what moral force they have, and he finds himself uncomfortable,
and glad to get away.  But if an adventurer go through all the forms,
procure himself to be elected to a post of trust, as of senator, or
president,—though by the same arts as we detest in the house-thief,—the
same gentlemen who agree to discountenance the private rogue, will be
forward to show civilities and marks of respect to the public one: and
no amount of evidence of his crimes will prevent them giving him
ovations, complimentary dinners, opening their own houses to him, and
priding themselves on his acquaintance.  We were not deceived by the
professions of the private adventurer,—the louder he talked of his
honor, the faster we counted our spoons; but we appeal to the sanctified
preamble of the messages and proclamations of the public sinner, as the
proof of sincerity.  It must be that they who pay this homage have said
to themselves, On the whole, we don’t know about this that you call
honesty; a bird in the hand is better.

Even well-disposed, good sort of people are touched with the same
infidelity, and for brave, straightforward action, use half-measures and
compromises.  Forgetful that a little measure is a great error,
forgetful that a wise mechanic uses a sharp tool, they go on choosing
the dead men of routine.  But the official men can in nowise help you in
any question of to-day, they deriving entirely from the old dead things.
Only those can help in counsel or conduct who did not make a party
pledge to defend this or that, but who were appointed by God Almighty,
before they came into the world, to stand for this which they uphold.

It has been charged that a want of sincerity in the leading men is a
vice general throughout American society.  But the multitude of the sick
shall not make us deny the existence of health.  In spite of our
imbecility and terrors, and "universal decay of religion," &c. &c., the
moral sense reappears to-day with the same morning newness that has been
from of old the fountain of beauty and strength. You say, there is no
religion now.  ’Tis like saying in rainy weather, there is no sun, when
at that moment we are witnessing one of his superlative effects. The
religion of the cultivated class now, to be sure, consists in an
avoidance of acts and engagements which it was once their religion to
assume.  But this avoidance will yield spontaneous forms in their due
hour.  There is a principle which is the basis of things, which all
speech aims to say, and all action to evolve, a simple, quiet,
undescribed, undescribable presence, dwelling very peacefully in us, our
rightful lord: we are not to do, but to let do; not to work, but to be
worked upon; and to this homage there is a consent of all thoughtful and
just men in all ages and conditions.  To this sentiment belong vast and
sudden enlargements of power. ’Tis remarkable that our faith in ecstasy
consists with total inexperience of it.  It is the order of the world to
educate with accuracy the senses and the understanding; and the enginery
at work to draw out these powers in priority, no doubt, has its office.
But we are never without a hint that these powers are mediate and
servile, and that we are one day to deal with real being,—essences with
essences. Even the fury of material activity has some results friendly
to moral health.  The energetic action of the times develops
individualism, and the religious appear isolated.  I esteem this a step
in the right direction.  Heaven deals with us on no representative
system.  Souls are not saved in bundles.  The Spirit saith to the man,
’How is it with thee? thee personally? is it well? is it ill?’  For a
great nature, it is a happiness to escape a religious training,—religion
of character is so apt to be invaded. Religion must always be a crab
fruit: it cannot be grafted and keep its wild beauty.  "I have seen,"
said a traveller who had known the extremes of society, "I have seen
human nature in all its forms, it is everywhere the same, but the wilder
it is, the more virtuous."

We say, the old forms of religion decay, and that a skepticism
devastates the community.  I do not think it can be cured or stayed by
any modification of theologic creeds, much less by theologic discipline.
The cure for false theology is motherwit. Forget your books and
traditions, and obey your moral perceptions at this hour.  That which is
signified by the words "moral" and "spiritual," is a lasting essence,
and, with whatever illusions we have loaded them, will certainly bring
back the words, age after age, to their ancient meaning. I know no words
that mean so much.  In our definitions, we grope after the _spiritual_
by describing it as invisible.  The true meaning of _spiritual_ is
_real_; that law which executes itself, which works without means, and
which cannot be conceived as not existing.  Men talk of "mere
morality,"—which is much as if one should say, ’poor God, with nobody to
help him.’  I find the omnipresence and the almightiness in the reaction
of every atom in Nature.  I can best indicate by examples those
reactions by which every part of Nature replies to the purpose of the
actor,—beneficently to the good, penally to the bad.  Let us replace
sentimentalism by realism, and dare to uncover those simple and terrible
laws which, be they seen or unseen, pervade and govern.

Every man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him.  But a day
comes when he begins to care that he do not cheat his neighbor.  Then
all goes well.  He has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the
sun.  What a day dawns, when we have taken to heart the doctrine of
faith! to prefer, as a better investment, being to doing; being to
seeming; logic to rhythm and to display; the year to the day; the life
to the year; character to performance;—and have come to know, that
justice will be done us; and, if our genius is slow, the term will be

’Tis certain that worship stands in some commanding relation to the
health of man, and to his highest powers, so as to be, in some manner,
the source of intellect.  All the great ages have been ages of belief.
I mean, when there was any extraordinary power of performance, when
great national movements began, when arts appeared, when heroes existed,
when poems were made, the human soul was in earnest, and had fixed its
thoughts on spiritual verities, with as strict a grasp as that of the
hands on the sword, or the pencil, or the trowel.  It is true that
genius takes its rise out of the mountains of rectitude; that all beauty
and power which men covet, are somehow born out of that Alpine district;
that any extraordinary degree of beauty in man or woman involves a moral
charm.  Thus, I think, we very slowly admit in another man a higher
degree of moral sentiment than our own,—a finer conscience, more
impressionable, or, which marks minuter degrees; an ear to hear acuter
notes of right and wrong, than we can.  I think we listen suspiciously
and very slowly to any evidence to that point.  But, once satisfied of
such superiority, we set no limit to our expectation of his genius.  For
such persons are nearer to the secret of God than others; are bathed by
sweeter waters; they hear notices, they see visions, where others are
vacant.  We believe that holiness confers a certain insight, because not
by our private, but by our public force, can we share and know the
nature of things.

There is an intimate interdependence of intellect and morals.  Given the
equality of two intellects,—which will form the most reliable judgments,
the good, or the bad hearted?  "The heart has its arguments, with which
the understanding is not acquainted."  For the heart is at once aware of
the state of health or disease, which is the controlling state, that is,
of sanity or of insanity, prior, of course, to all question of the
ingenuity of arguments, the amount of facts, or the elegance of
rhetoric.  So intimate is this alliance of mind and heart, that talent
uniformly sinks with character. The bias of errors of principle carries
away men into perilous courses, as soon as their will does not control
their passion or talent.  Hence the extraordinary blunders, and final
wrong head, into which men spoiled by ambition usually fall.  Hence the
remedy for all blunders, the cure of blindness, the cure of crime, is
love.  "As much love, so much mind," said the Latin proverb.  The
superiority that has no superior; the redeemer and instructor of souls,
as it is their primal essence, is love.

The moral must be the measure of health.  If your eye is on the eternal,
your intellect will grow, and your opinions and actions will have a
beauty which no learning or combined advantages of other men can rival.
The moment of your loss of faith, and acceptance of the lucrative
standard, will be marked in the pause, or solstice of genius, the
sequent retrogression, and the inevitable loss of attraction to other
minds.  The vulgar are sensible of the change in you, and of your
descent, though they clap you on the back, and congratulate you on your
increased common sense.

Our recent culture has been in natural science. We have learned the
manners of the sun and of the moon, of the rivers and the rains, of the
mineral and elemental kingdoms, of plants and animals. Man has learned
to weigh the sun, and its weight neither loses nor gains.  The path of a
star, the moment of an eclipse, can be determined to the fraction of a
second.  Well, to him the book of History, the book of love, the lures
of passion, and the commandments of duty are opened: and the next lesson
taught, is, the continuation of the inflexible law of matter into the
subtile kingdom of will, and of thought; that, if, in sidereal ages,
gravity and projection keep their craft, and the ball never loses its
way in its wild path through space,—a secreter gravitation, a secreter
projection, rule not less tyrannically in human history, and keep the
balance of power from age to age unbroken.  For, though the new element
of freedom and an individual has been admitted, yet the primordial atoms
are prefigured and predetermined to moral issues, are in search of
justice, and ultimate right is done. Religion or worship is the attitude
of those who see this unity, intimacy, and sincerity; who see that,
against all appearances, the nature of things works for truth and right

’Tis a short sight to limit our faith in laws to those of gravity, of
chemistry, of botany, and so forth.  Those laws do not stop where our
eyes lose them, but push the same geometry and chemistry up into the
invisible plane of social and rational life, so that, look where we
will, in a boy’s game, or in the strifes of races, a perfect reaction, a
perpetual judgment keeps watch and ward.  And this appears in a class of
facts which concerns all men, within and above their creeds.

Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances: It was somebody’s
name, or he happened to be there at the time, or, it was so then, and
another day it would have been otherwise.  Strong men believe in cause
and effect.  The man was born to do it, and his father was born to be
the father of him and of this deed, and, by looking narrowly, you shall
see there was no luck in the matter, but it was all a problem in
arithmetic, or an experiment in chemistry.  The curve of the flight of
the moth is preordained, and all things go by number, rule, and weight.

Skepticism is unbelief in cause and effect.  A man does not see, that,
as he eats, so he thinks: as he deals, so he is, and so he appears; he
does not see, that his son is the son of his thoughts and of his
actions; that fortunes are not exceptions but fruits; that relation and
connection are not somewhere and sometimes, but everywhere and always;
no miscellany, no exemption, no anomaly,—but method, and an even web;
and what comes out, that was put in.  As we are, so we do; and as we do,
so is it done to us; we are the builders of our fortunes; cant and lying
and the attempt to secure a good which does not belong to us, are, once
for all, balked and vain.  But, in the human mind, this tie of fate is
made alive.  The law is the basis of the human mind.  In us, it is
inspiration; out there in Nature, we see its fatal strength.  We call it
the moral sentiment.

We owe to the Hindoo Scriptures a definition of Law, which compares well
with any in our Western books.  "Law it is, which is without name, or
color, or hands, or feet; which is smallest of the least, and largest of
the large; all, and knowing all things; which hears without ears, sees
without eyes, moves without feet, and seizes without hands."

If any reader tax me with using vague and traditional phrases, let me
suggest to him, by a few examples, what kind of a trust this is, and how
real. Let me show him that the dice are loaded; that the colors are
fast, because they are the native colors of the fleece; that the globe
is a battery, because every atom is a magnet; and that the police and
sincerity of the Universe are secured by God’s delegating his divinity
to every particle; that there is no room for hypocrisy, no margin for

The countryman leaving his native village, for the first time, and going
abroad, finds all his habits broken up.  In a new nation and language,
his sect, as Quaker, or Lutheran, is lost.  What! it is not then
necessary to the order and existence of society?  He misses this, and
the commanding eye of his neighborhood, which held him to decorum. This
is the peril of New York, of New Orleans, of London, of Paris, to young
men.  But after a little experience, he makes the discovery that there
are no large cities,—none large enough to hide in; that the censors of
action are as numerous and as near in Paris, as in Littleton or
Portland; that the gossip is as prompt and vengeful.  There is no
concealment, and, for each offence, a several vengeance; that, reaction,
or _nothing for nothing, or, things are as broad as they are long_, is
not a rule for Littleton or Portland, but for the Universe.

We cannot spare the coarsest muniment of virtue.  We are disgusted by
gossip; yet it is of importance to keep the angels in their proprieties.
The smallest fly will draw blood, and gossip is a weapon impossible to
exclude from the privatest, highest, selectest.  Nature created a police
of many ranks.  God has delegated himself to a million deputies.  From
these low external penalties, the scale ascends.  Next come the
resentments, the fears, which injustice calls out; then, the false
relations in which the offender is put to other men; and the reaction of
his fault on himself, in the solitude and devastation of his mind.

You cannot hide any secret.  If the artist succor his flagging spirits
by opium or wine, his work will characterize itself as the effect of
opium or wine. If you make a picture or a statue, it sets the beholder
in that state of mind you had, when you made it.  If you spend for show,
on building, or gardening, or on pictures, or on equipages, it will so
appear.  We are all physiognomists and penetrators of character, and
things themselves are detective. If you follow the suburban fashion in
building a sumptuous-looking house for a little money, it will appear to
all eyes as a cheap dear house.  There is no privacy that cannot be
penetrated.  No secret can be kept in the civilized world.  Society is a
masked ball, where every one hides his real character, and reveals it by
hiding.  If a man wish to conceal anything he carries, those whom he
meets know that he conceals somewhat, and usually know what he conceals.
Is it otherwise if there be some belief or some purpose he would bury in
his breast? ’Tis as hard to hide as fire.  He is a strong man who can
hold down his opinion.  A man cannot utter two or three sentences,
without disclosing to intelligent ears precisely where he stands in life
and thought, namely, whether in the kingdom of the senses and the
understanding, or, in that of ideas and imagination, in the realm of
intuitions and duty.  People seem not to see that their opinion of the
world is also a confession of character. We can only see what we are,
and if we misbehave we suspect others.  The fame of Shakspeare or of
Voltaire, of Thomas à Kempis, or of Bonaparte, characterizes those who
give it.  As gas-light is found to be the best nocturnal police, so the
universe protects itself by pitiless publicity.

Each must be armed—not necessarily with musket and pike.  Happy, if,
seeing these, he can feel that he has better muskets and pikes in his
energy and constancy.  To every creature is his own weapon, however
skilfully concealed from himself, a good while.  His work is sword and
shield. Let him accuse none, let him injure none.  The way to mend the
bad world, is to create the right world.  Here is a low political
economy plotting to cut the throat of foreign competition, and establish
our own;—excluding others by force, or making war on them; or, by
cunning tariffs, giving preference to worse wares of ours.  But the real
and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war. The way to
conquer the foreign artisan, is, not to kill him, but to beat his work.
And the Crystal Palaces and World Fairs, with their committees and
prizes on all kinds of industry, are the result of this feeling.  The
American workman who strikes ten blows with his hammer, whilst the
foreign workman only strikes one, is as really vanquishing that
foreigner, as if the blows were aimed at and told on his person.  I look
on that man as happy, who, when there is question of success, looks into
his work for a reply, not into the market, not into opinion, not into
patronage.  In every variety of human employment, in the mechanical and
in the fine arts, in navigation, in farming, in legislating, there are
among the numbers who do their task perfunctorily, as we say, or just to
pass, and as badly as they dare,—there are the working-men, on whom the
burden of the business falls,—those who love work, and love to see it
rightly done, who finish their task for its own sake; and the state and
the world is happy, that has the most of such finishers.  The world will
always do justice at last to such finishers: it cannot otherwise. He who
has acquired the ability, may wait securely the occasion of making it
felt and appreciated, and know that it will not loiter.  Men talk as if
victory were something fortunate.  Work is victory. Wherever work is
done, victory is obtained.  There is no chance, and no blanks.  You want
but one verdict: if you have your own, you are secure of the rest.  And
yet, if witnesses are wanted, witnesses are near.  There was never a man
born so wise or good, but one or more companions came into the world
with him, who delight in his faculty, and report it.  I cannot see
without awe, that no man thinks alone, and no man acts alone, but the
divine assessors who came up with him into life,—now under one disguise,
now under another,—like a police in citizens’ clothes, walk with him,
step for step, through all the kingdom of time.

This reaction, this sincerity is the property of all things.  To make
our word or act sublime, we must make it real.  It is our system that
counts, not the single word or unsupported action.  Use what language
you will, you can never say anything but what you are.  What I am, and
what I think, is conveyed to you, in spite of my efforts to hold it
back.  What I am has been secretly conveyed from me to another, whilst I
was vainly making up my mind to tell him it.  He has heard from me what
I never spoke.

As men get on in life, they acquire a love for sincerity, and somewhat
less solicitude to be lulled or amused.  In the progress of the
character, there is an increasing faith in the moral sentiment, and a
decreasing faith in propositions.  Young people admire talents, and
particular excellences.  As we grow older, we value total powers and
effects, as the spirit, or quality of the man.  We have another sight,
and a new standard; an insight which disregards what is done _for_ the
eye, and pierces to the doer; an ear which hears not what men say, but
hears what they do not say.

There was a wise, devout man who is called, in the Catholic Church, St.
Philip Neri, of whom many anecdotes touching his discernment and
benevolence are told at Naples and Rome.  Among the nuns in a convent
not far from Rome, one had appeared, who laid claim to certain rare
gifts of inspiration and prophecy, and the abbess advised the Holy
Father, at Rome, of the wonderful powers shown by her novice.  The Pope
did not well know what to make of these new claims, and Philip coming in
from a journey, one day, he consulted him. Philip undertook to visit the
nun, and ascertain her character.  He threw himself on his mule, all
travel-soiled as he was, and hastened through the mud and mire to the
distant convent.  He told the abbess the wishes of his Holiness, and
begged her to summon the nun without delay.  The nun was sent for, and,
as soon as she came into the apartment, Philip stretched out his leg all
bespattered with mud, and desired her to draw off his boots. The young
nun, who had become the object of much attention and respect, drew back
with anger, and refused the office: Philip ran out of doors, mounted his
mule, and returned instantly to the Pope; "Give yourself no uneasiness,
Holy Father, any longer: here is no miracle, for here is no humility."

We need not much mind what people please to say, but what they must say;
what their natures say, though their busy, artful, Yankee understandings
try to hold back, and choke that word, and to articulate something
different.  If we will sit quietly,—what they ought to say is said, with
their will, or against their will.  We do not care for you, let us
pretend what we will:—we are always looking through you to the dim
dictator behind you.  Whilst your habit or whim chatters, we civilly and
impatiently wait until that wise superior shall speak again.  Even
children are not deceived by the false reasons which their parents give
in answer to their questions, whether touching natural facts, or
religion, or persons.  When the parent, instead of thinking how it
really is, puts them off with a traditional or a hypocritical answer,
the children perceive that it is traditional or hypocritical.  To a
sound constitution the defect of another is at once manifest: and the
marks of it are only concealed from us by our own dislocation. An
anatomical observer remarks, that the sympathies of the chest, abdomen,
and pelvis, tell at last on the face, and on all its features.  Not only
does our beauty waste, but it leaves word how it went to waste.
Physiognomy and phrenology are not new sciences, but declarations of the
soul that it is aware of certain new sources of information.  And now
sciences of broader scope are starting up behind these.  And so for
ourselves, it is really of little importance what blunders in statement
we make, so only we make no wilful departures from the truth.  How a
man’s truth comes to mind, long after we have forgotten all his words!
How it comes to us in silent hours, that truth is our only armor in all
passages of life and death!  Wit is cheap, and anger is cheap; but if
you cannot argue or explain yourself to the other party, cleave to the
truth against me, against thee, and you gain a station from which you
cannot be dislodged.  The other party will forget the words that you
spoke, but the part you took continues to plead for you.

Why should I hasten to solve every riddle which life offers me?  I am
well assured that the Questioner, who brings me so many problems, will
bring the answers also in due time.  Very rich, very potent, very
cheerful Giver that he is, he shall have it all his own way, for me.
Why should I give up my thought, because I cannot answer an objection to
it?  Consider only, whether it remains in my life the same it was.  That
only which we have within, can we see without.  If we meet no gods, it
is because we harbor none.  If there is grandeur in you, you will find
grandeur in porters and sweeps.  He only is rightly immortal, to whom
all things are immortal.  I have read somewhere, that none is
accomplished, so long as any are incomplete; that the happiness of one
cannot consist with the misery of any other.

The Buddhists say, "No seed will die:" every seed will grow.  Where is
the service which can escape its remuneration?  What is vulgar, and the
essence of all vulgarity, but the avarice of reward? ’Tis the difference
of artisan and artist, of talent and genius, of sinner and saint.  The
man whose eyes are nailed not on the nature of his act, but on the
wages, whether it be money, or office, or fame,—is almost equally low.
He is great, whose eyes are opened to see that the reward of actions
cannot be escaped, because he is transformed into his action, and taketh
its nature, which bears its own fruit, like every other tree.  A great
man cannot be hindered of the effect of his act, because it is
immediate.  The genius of life is friendly to the noble, and in the dark
brings them friends from far. Fear God, and where you go, men shall
think they walk in hallowed cathedrals.

And so I look on those sentiments which make the glory of the human
being, love, humility, faith, as being also the intimacy of Divinity in
the atoms; and, that, as soon as the man is right, assurances and
previsions emanate from the interior of his body and his mind; as, when
flowers reach their ripeness, incense exhales from them, and, as a
beautiful atmosphere is generated from the planet by the averaged
emanations from all its rocks and soils.

Thus man is made equal to every event.  He can face danger for the
right.  A poor, tender, painful body, he can run into flame or bullets
or pestilence, with duty for his guide.  He feels the insurance of a
just employment.  I am not afraid of accident, as long as I am in my
place.  It is strange that superior persons should not feel that they
have some better resistance against cholera, than avoiding green peas
and salads.  Life is hardly respectable,—is it? if it has no generous,
guaranteeing task, no duties or affections, that constitute a necessity
of existing.  Every man’s task is his life-preserver.  The conviction
that his work is dear to God and cannot be spared, defends him.  The
lightning-rod that disarms the cloud of its threat is his body in its
duty.  A high aim reacts on the means, on the days, on the organs of the
body.  A high aim is curative, as well as arnica. "Napoleon," says
Goethe, "visited those sick of the plague, in order to prove that the
man who could vanquish fear, could vanquish the plague also; and he was
right.  ’Tis incredible what force the will has in such cases: it
penetrates the body, and puts it in a state of activity, which repels
all hurtful influences; whilst fear invites them."

It is related of William of Orange, that, whilst he was besieging a town
on the continent, a gentleman sent to him on public business came to his
camp, and, learning that the King was before the walls, he ventured to
go where he was.  He found him directing the operation of his gunners,
and, having explained his errand, and received his answer, the King
said, "Do you not know, sir, that every moment you spend here is at the
risk of your life?"  "I run no more risk," replied the gentleman, "than
your Majesty."  "Yes," said the King, "but my duty brings me here, and
yours does not."  In a few minutes, a cannon-ball fell on the spot, and
the gentleman was killed.

Thus can the faithful student reverse all the warnings of his early
instinct, under the guidance of a deeper instinct.  He learns to welcome
misfortune, learns that adversity is the prosperity of the great.  He
learns the greatness of humility. He shall work in the dark, work
against failure, pain, and ill-will.  If he is insulted, he can be
insulted; all his affair is not to insult.  Hafiz writes,

    At the last day, men shall wear
    On their heads the dust,
    As ensign and as ornament
    Of their lowly trust.

The moral equalizes all; enriches, empowers all. It is the coin which
buys all, and which all find in their pocket.  Under the whip of the
driver, the slave shall feel his equality with saints and heroes. In the
greatest destitution and calamity, it surprises man with a feeling of
elasticity which makes nothing of loss.

I recall some traits of a remarkable person whose life and discourse
betrayed many inspirations of this sentiment.  Benedict was always great
in the present time.  He had hoarded nothing from the past, neither in
his cabinets, neither in his memory.  He had no designs on the future,
neither for what he should do to men, nor for what men should do for
him.  He said, ’I am never beaten until I know that I am beaten.  I meet
powerful brutal people to whom I have no skill to reply.  They think
they have defeated me.  It is so published in society, in the journals;
I am defeated in this fashion, in all men’s sight, perhaps on a dozen
different lines.  My ledger may show that I am in debt, cannot yet make
my ends meet, and vanquish the enemy so.  My race may not be prospering:
we are sick, ugly, obscure, unpopular.  My children may be worsted. I
seem to fail in my friends and clients, too.  That is to say, in all the
encounters that have yet chanced, I have not been weaponed for that
particular occasion, and have been historically beaten; and yet, I know,
all the time, that I have never been beaten; have never yet fought,
shall certainly fight, when my hour comes, and shall beat.’  "A man,"
says the Vishnu Sarma, "who having well compared his own strength or
weakness with that of others, after all doth not know the difference, is
easily overcome by his enemies."

’I spent,’ he said, ’ten months in the country. Thick-starred Orion was
my only companion. Wherever a squirrel or a bee can go with security, I
can go.  I ate whatever was set before me; I touched ivy and dogwood.
When I went abroad, I kept company with every man on the road, for I
knew that my evil and my good did not come from these, but from the
Spirit, whose servant I was. For I could not stoop to be a circumstance,
as they did, who put their life into their fortune and their company.  I
would not degrade myself by casting about in my memory for a thought,
nor by waiting for one.  If the thought come, I would give it
entertainment.  It should, as it ought, go into my hands and feet; but
if it come not spontaneously, it comes not rightly at all.  If it can
spare me, I am sure I can spare it.  It shall be the same with my
friends.  I will never woo the loveliest.  I will not ask any friendship
or favor.  When I come to my own, we shall both know it.  Nothing will
be to be asked or to be granted.’  Benedict went out to seek his friend,
and met him on the way; but he expressed no surprise at any
coincidences.  On the other hand, if he called at the door of his
friend, and he was not at home, he did not go again; concluding that he
had misinterpreted the intimations.

He had the whim not to make an apology to the same individual whom he
had wronged.  For this, he said, was a piece of personal vanity; but he
would correct his conduct in that respect in which he had faulted, to
the next person he should meet.  Thus, he said, universal justice was

Mira came to ask what she should do with the poor Genesee woman who had
hired herself to work for her, at a shilling a day, and, now sickening,
was like to be bedridden on her hands.  Should she keep her, or should
she dismiss her?  But Benedict said, ’Why ask?  One thing will clear
itself as the thing to be done, and not another, when the hour comes.
Is it a question, whether to put her into the street?  Just as much
whether to thrust the little Jenny on your arm into the street.  The
milk and meal you give the beggar, will fatten Jenny.  Thrust the woman
out, and you thrust your babe out of doors, whether it so seem to you or

In the Shakers, so called, I find one piece of belief, in the doctrine
which they faithfully hold, that encourages them to open their doors to
every wayfaring man who proposes to come among them; for, they say, the
Spirit will presently manifest to the man himself, and to the society,
what manner of person he is, and whether he belongs among them. They do
not receive him, they do not reject him. And not in vain have they worn
their clay coat, and drudged in their fields, and shuffled in their
Bruin dance, from year to year, if they have truly learned thus much

Honor him whose life is perpetual victory; him, who, by sympathy with
the invisible and real, finds support in labor, instead of praise; who
does not shine, and would rather not.  With eyes open, he makes the
choice of virtue, which outrages the virtuous; of religion, which
churches stop their discords to burn and exterminate; for the highest
virtue is always against the law.

Miracle comes to the miraculous, not to the arithmetician.  Talent and
success interest me but moderately.  The great class, they who affect
our imagination, the men who could not make their hands meet around
their objects, the rapt, the lost, the fools of ideas,—they suggest what
they cannot execute.  They speak to the ages, and are heard from afar.
The Spirit does not love cripples and malformations.  If there ever was
a good man, be certain, there was another, and will be more.

And so in relation to that future hour, that spectre clothed with beauty
at our curtain by night, at our table by day,—the apprehension, the
assurance of a coming change.  The race of mankind have always offered
at least this implied thanks for the gift of existence,—namely, the
terror of its being taken away; the insatiable curiosity and appetite
for its continuation.  The whole revelation that is vouchsafed us, is,
the gentle trust, which, in our experience we find, will cover also with
flowers the slopes of this chasm.

Of immortality, the soul, when well employed, is incurious.  It is so
well, that it is sure it will be well.  It asks no questions of the
Supreme Power. The son of Antiochus asked his father, when he would join
battle?  "Dost thou fear," replied the King, "that thou only in all the
army wilt not hear the trumpet?"  ’Tis a higher thing to confide, that,
if it is best we should live, we shall live,—’tis higher to have this
conviction, than to have the lease of indefinite centuries and
millenniums and æons.  Higher than the question of our duration is the
question of our deserving.  Immortality will come to such as are fit for
it, and he who would be a great soul in future, must be a great soul
now. It is a doctrine too great to rest on any legend, that is, on any
man’s experience but our own.  It must be proved, if at all, from our
own activity and designs, which imply an interminable future for their

What is called religion effeminates and demoralizes. Such as you are,
the gods themselves could not help you.  Men are too often unfit to
live, from their obvious inequality to their own necessities, or, they
suffer from politics, or bad neighbors, or from sickness, and they would
gladly know that they were to be dismissed from the duties of life.  But
the wise instinct asks, ’How will death help them?’  These are not
dismissed when they die.  You shall not wish for death out of
pusillanimity.  The weight of the Universe is pressed down on the
shoulders of each moral agent to hold him to his task.  The only path of
escape known in all the worlds of God is performance.  You must do your
work, before you shall be released.  And as far as it is a question of
fact respecting the government of the Universe, Marcus Antoninus summed
the whole in a word, "It is pleasant to die, if there be gods; and sad
to live, if there be none."

And so I think that the last lesson of life, the choral song which rises
from all elements and all angels, is, a voluntary obedience, a
necessitated freedom.  Man is made of the same atoms as the world is, he
shares the same impressions, predispositions, and destiny.  When his
mind is illuminated, when his heart is kind, he throws himself joyfully
into the sublime order, and does, with knowledge, what the stones do by

The religion which is to guide and fulfil the present and coming ages,
whatever else it be, must be intellectual.  The scientific mind must
have a faith which is science.  "There are two things," said Mahomet,
"which I abhor, the learned in his infidelities, and the fool in his
devotions."  Our times are impatient of both, and specially of the last.
Let us have nothing now which is not its own evidence.  There is surely
enough for the heart and imagination in the religion itself.  Let us not
be pestered with assertions and half-truths, with emotions and snuffle.

There will be a new church founded on moral science, at first cold and
naked, a babe in a manger again, the algebra and mathematics of ethical
law, the church of men to come, without shawms, or psaltery, or sackbut;
but it will have heaven and earth for its beams and rafters; science for
symbol and illustration; it will fast enough gather beauty, music,
picture, poetry.  Was never stoicism so stern and exigent as this shall
be.  It shall send man home to his central solitude, shame these social,
supplicating manners, and make him know that much of the time he must
have himself to his friend.  He shall expect no coöperation, he shall
walk with no companion.  The nameless Thought, the nameless Power, the
superpersonal Heart,—he shall repose alone on that.  He needs only his
own verdict.  No good fame can help, no bad fame can hurt him.  The Laws
are his consolers, the good Laws themselves are alive, they know if he
have kept them, they animate him with the leading of great duty, and an
endless horizon.  Honor and fortune exist to him who always recognizes
the neighborhood of the great, always feels himself in the presence of
high causes.


                       CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY.

    Hear what British Merlin sung,
    Of keenest eye and truest tongue.
    Say not, the chiefs who first arrive
    Usurp the seats for which all strive;
    The forefathers this land who found
    Failed to plant the vantage-ground;
    Ever from one who comes to-morrow
    Men wait their good and truth to borrow.
    But wilt thou measure all thy road,
    See thou lift the lightest load.
    Who has little, to him who has less, can spare,
    And thou, Cyndyllan’s son! beware
    Ponderous gold and stuffs to bear,
    To falter ere thou thy task fulfil,—
    Only the light-armed climb the hill.
    The richest of all lords is Use,
    And ruddy Health the loftiest Muse.
    Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,
    Drink the wild air’s salubrity:
    Where the star Canope shines in May,
    Shepherds are thankful, and nations gay.
    The music that can deepest reach,
    And cure all ill, is cordial speech:
    Mask thy wisdom with delight,
    Toy with the bow, yet hit the white.
    Of all wit’s uses, the main one
    Is to live well with who has none.
    Cleave to thine acre; the round year
    Will fetch all fruits and virtues here:
    Fool and foe may harmless roam,
    Loved and lovers bide at home,
    A day for toil, an hour for sport,
    But for a friend is life too short.

                       CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY.

Although this garrulity of advising is born with us, I confess that life
is rather a subject of wonder, than of didactics.  So much fate, so much
irresistible dictation from temperament and unknown inspiration enters
into it, that we doubt we can say anything out of our own experience
whereby to help each other.  All the professions are timid and expectant
agencies.  The priest is glad if his prayers or his sermon meet the
condition of any soul; if of two, if of ten, ’tis a signal success.  But
he walked to the church without any assurance that he knew the
distemper, or could heal it.  The physician prescribes hesitatingly out
of his few resources, the same tonic or sedative to this new and
peculiar constitution, which he has applied with various success to a
hundred men before.  If the patient mends, he is glad and surprised.
The lawyer advises the client, and tells his story to the jury, and
leaves it with them, and is as gay and as much relieved as the client,
if it turns out that he has a verdict.  The judge weighs the arguments,
and puts a brave face on the matter, and, since there must be a
decision, decides as he can, and hopes he has done justice, and given
satisfaction to the community; but is only an advocate after all.  And
so is all life a timid and unskilful spectator.  We do what we must, and
call it by the best names. We like very well to be praised for our
action, but our conscience says, "Not unto us."  ’Tis little we can do
for each other.  We accompany the youth with sympathy, and manifold old
sayings of the wise, to the gate of the arena, but ’tis certain that not
by strength of ours, or of the old sayings, but only on strength of his
own, unknown to us or to any, he must stand or fall.  That by which a
man conquers in any passage, is a profound secret to every other being
in the world, and it is only as he turns his back on us and on all men,
and draws on this most private wisdom, that any good can come to him.
What we have, therefore, to say of life, is rather description, or, if
you please, celebration, than available rules.

Yet vigor is contagious, and whatever makes us either think or feel
strongly, adds to our power, and enlarges our field of action.  We have
a debt to every great heart, to every fine genius; to those who have put
life and fortune on the cast of an act of justice; to those who have
added new sciences; to those who have refined life by elegant pursuits.
’Tis the fine souls who serve us, and not what is called fine society.
Fine society is only a self-protection against the vulgarities of the
street and the tavern.  Fine society, in the common acceptation, has
neither ideas nor aims.  It renders the service of a perfumery, or a
laundry, not of a farm or factory.  ’Tis an exclusion and a precinct.
Sidney Smith said, "A few yards in London cement or dissolve
friendship."  It is an unprincipled decorum; an affair of clean linen
and coaches, of gloves, cards, and elegance in trifles.  There are other
measures of self-respect for a man, than the number of clean shirts he
puts on every day. Society wishes to be amused.  I do not wish to be
amused.  I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred.  I wish the
days to be as centuries, loaded, fragrant.  Now we reckon them as
bank-days, by some debt which is to be paid us, or which we are to pay,
or some pleasure we are to taste.  Is all we have to do to draw the
breath in, and blow it out again?  Porphyry’s definition is better;
"Life is that which holds matter together."  The babe in arms is a
channel through which the energies we call fate, love, and reason,
visibly stream.  See what a cometary train of auxiliaries man carries
with him, of animals, plants, stones, gases, and imponderable elements.
Let us infer his ends from this pomp of means.  Mirabeau said, "Why
should we feel ourselves to be men, unless it be to succeed in
everything, everywhere.  You must say of nothing, _That is beneath me_,
nor feel that anything can be out of your power.  Nothing is impossible
to the man who can will.  _Is that necessary?  That shall be_:—this is
the only law of success."  Whoever said it, this is in the right key.
But this is not the tone and genius of the men in the street. In the
streets, we grow cynical.  The men we meet are coarse and torpid.  The
finest wits have their sediment.  What quantities of fribbles, paupers,
invalids, epicures, antiquaries, politicians, thieves, and triflers of
both sexes, might be advantageously spared!  Mankind divides itself into
two classes,—benefactors and malefactors.  The second class is vast, the
first a handful.  A person seldom falls sick, but the bystanders are
animated with a faint hope that he will die:—quantities of poor lives;
of distressing invalids; of cases for a gun. Franklin said, "Mankind are
very superficial and dastardly: they begin upon a thing, but, meeting
with a difficulty, they fly from it discouraged: but they have
capacities, if they would employ them."  Shall we then judge a country
by the majority, or by the minority?  By the minority, surely. ’Tis
pedantry to estimate nations by the census, or by square miles of land,
or other than by their importance to the mind of the time.

Leave this hypocritical prating about the masses. Masses are rude, lame,
unmade, pernicious in their demands and influence, and need not to be
flattered but to be schooled.  I wish not to concede anything to them,
but to tame, drill, divide, and break them up, and draw individuals out
of them.  The worst of charity is, that the lives you are asked to
preserve are not worth preserving.  Masses! the calamity is the masses.
I do not wish any mass at all, but honest men only, lovely, sweet,
accomplished women only, and no shovel-handed, narrow-brained,
gin-drinking million stockingers or lazzaroni at all.  If government
knew how, I should like to see it check, not multiply the population.
When it reaches its true law of action, every man that is born will be
hailed as essential. Away with this hurrah of masses, and let us have
the considerate vote of single men spoken on their honor and their
conscience.  In old Egypt, it was established law, that the vote of a
prophet be reckoned equal to a hundred hands.  I think it was much
under-estimated.  "Clay and clay differ in dignity," as we discover by
our preferences every day.  What a vicious practice is this of our
politicians at Washington pairing off! as if one man who votes wrong,
going away, could excuse you, who mean to vote right, for going away;
or, as if your presence did not tell in more ways than in your vote.
Suppose the three hundred heroes at Thermopylæ had paired off with three
hundred Persians: would it have been all the same to Greece, and to
history?  Napoleon was called by his men _Cent Mille_.  Add honesty to
him, and they might have called him Hundred Million.

Nature makes fifty poor melons for one that is good, and shakes down a
tree full of gnarled, wormy, unripe crabs, before you can find a dozen
dessert apples; and she scatters nations of naked Indians, and nations
of clothed Christians, with two or three good heads among them.  Nature
works very hard, and only hits the white once in a million throws.  In
mankind, she is contented if she yields one master in a century.  The
more difficulty there is in creating good men, the more they are used
when they come.  I once counted in a little neighborhood, and found that
every able-bodied man had, say from twelve to fifteen persons dependent
on him for material aid,—to whom he is to be for spoon and jug, for
backer and sponsor, for nursery and hospital, and many functions beside:
nor does it seem to make much difference whether he is bachelor or
patriarch; if he do not violently decline the duties that fall to him,
this amount of helpfulness will in one way or another be brought home to
him.  This is the tax which his abilities pay.  The good men are
employed for private centres of use, and for larger influence.  All
revelations, whether of mechanical or intellectual or moral science, are
made not to communities, but to single persons. All the marked events of
our day, all the cities, all the colonizations, may be traced back to
their origin in a private brain.  All the feats which make our civility
were the thoughts of a few good heads.

Meantime, this spawning productivity is not noxious or needless.  You
would say, this rabble of nations might be spared.  But no, they are all
counted and depended on.  Fate keeps everything alive so long as the
smallest thread of public necessity holds it on to the tree.  The
coxcomb and bully and thief class are allowed as proletaries, every one
of their vices being the excess or acridity of a virtue.  The mass are
animal, in pupilage, and near chimpanzee.  But the units, whereof this
mass is composed are neuters, every one of which may be grown to a
queen-bee.  The rule is, we are used as brute atoms, until we think:
then, we use all the rest.  Nature turns all malfaisance to good.
Nature provided for real needs.  No sane man at last distrusts himself.
His existence is a perfect answer to all sentimental cavils.  If he is,
he is wanted, and has the precise properties that are required.  That we
are here, is proof we ought to be here.  We have as good right, and the
same sort of right to be here, as Cape Cod or Sandy Hook have to be

To say then, the majority are wicked, means no malice, no bad heart in
the observer, but, simply, that the majority are unripe, and have not
yet come to themselves, do not yet know their opinion. That, if they
knew it, is an oracle for them and for all.  But in the passing moment,
the quadruped interest is very prone to prevail: and this beast-force,
whilst it makes the discipline of the world, the school of heroes, the
glory of martyrs, has provoked, in every age, the satire of wits, and
the tears of good men.  They find the journals, the clubs, the
governments, the churches, to be in the interest, and the pay of the
devil.  And wise men have met this obstruction in their times, like
Socrates, with his famous irony; like Bacon, with life-long
dissimulation; like Erasmus, with his book "The Praise of Folly;" like
Rabelais, with his satire rending the nations.  "They were the fools who
cried against me, you will say," wrote the Chevalier de Boufflers to
Grimm; "aye, but the fools have the advantage of numbers, and ’tis that
which decides.  ’Tis of no use for us to make war with them; we shall
not weaken them; they will always be the masters. There will not be a
practice or an usage introduced, of which they are not the authors."

In front of these sinister facts, the first lesson of history is the
good of evil.  Good is a good doctor, but Bad is sometimes a better.
’Tis the oppressions of William the Norman, savage forest-laws, and
crushing despotism, that made possible the inspirations of _Magna
Charta_ under John.  Edward I. wanted money, armies, castles, and as
much as he could get.  It was necessary to call the people together by
shorter, swifter ways,—and the House of Commons arose.  To obtain
subsidies, he paid in privileges.  In the twenty-fourth year of his
reign, he decreed, "that no tax should be levied without consent of
Lords and Commons;"—which is the basis of the English Constitution.
Plutarch affirms that the cruel wars which followed the march of
Alexander, introduced the civility, language, and arts of Greece into
the savage East; introduced marriage; built seventy cities; and united
hostile nations under one government.  The barbarians who broke up the
Roman empire did not arrive a day too soon. Schiller says, the Thirty
Years’ War made Germany a nation.  Rough, selfish despots serve men
immensely, as Henry VIII. in the contest with the Pope; as the
infatuations no less than the wisdom of Cromwell; as the ferocity of the
Russian czars; as the fanaticism of the French regicides of 1789. The
frost which kills the harvest of a year, saves the harvests of a
century, by destroying the weevil or the locust.  Wars, fires, plagues,
break up immovable routine, clear the ground of rotten races and dens of
distemper, and open a fair field to new men.  There is a tendency in
things to right themselves, and the war or revolution or bankruptcy that
shatters a rotten system, allows things to take a new and natural order.
The sharpest evils are bent into that periodicity which makes the errors
of planets, and the fevers and distempers of men, self-limiting.  Nature
is upheld by antagonism.  Passions, resistance, danger, are educators.
We acquire the strength we have overcome.  Without war, no soldier;
without enemies, no hero. The sun were insipid, if the universe were not
opaque.  And the glory of character is in affronting the horrors of
depravity, to draw thence new nobilities of power: as Art lives and
thrills in new use and combining of contrasts, and mining into the dark
evermore for blacker pits of night. What would painter do, or what would
poet or saint, but for crucifixions and hells?  And evermore in the
world is this marvellous balance of beauty and disgust, magnificence and
rats.  Not Antoninus, but a poor washer-woman said, "The more trouble,
the more lion; that’s my principle."  I do not think very respectfully
of the designs or the doings of the people who went to California, in
1849.  It was a rush and a scramble of needy adventurers, and, in the
western country, a general jail-delivery of all the rowdies of the
rivers.  Some of them went with honest purposes, some with very bad
ones, and all of them with the very commonplace wish to find a short way
to wealth.  But Nature watches over all, and turns this malfaisance to
good.  California gets peopled and subdued,—civilized in this immoral
way,—and, on this fiction, a real prosperity is rooted and grown.  ’Tis
a decoy-duck; ’tis tubs thrown to amuse the whale: but real ducks, and
whales that yield oil, are caught.  And, out of Sabine rapes, and out of
robbers’ forays, real Romes and their heroisms come in fulness of time.

In America, the geography is sublime, but the men are not: the
inventions are excellent, but the inventors one is sometimes ashamed of.
The agencies by which events so grand as the opening of California, of
Texas, of Oregon, and the junction of the two oceans, are effected, are
paltry,—coarse selfishness, fraud, and conspiracy: and most of the great
results of history are brought about by discreditable means.

The benefaction derived in Illinois, and the great West, from railroads
is inestimable, and vastly exceeding any intentional philanthropy on
record. What is the benefit done by a good King Alfred, or by a Howard,
or Pestalozzi, or Elizabeth Fry, or Florence Nightingale, or any lover,
less or larger, compared with the involuntary blessing wrought on
nations by the selfish capitalists who built the Illinois, Michigan, and
the network of the Mississippi valley roads, which have evoked not only
all the wealth of the soil, but the energy of millions of men.  ’Tis a
sentence of ancient wisdom, "that God hangs the greatest weights on the
smallest wires."

What happens thus to nations, befalls every day in private houses.  When
the friends of a gentleman brought to his notice the follies of his sons
with many hints of their danger, he replied, that he knew so much
mischief when he was a boy, and had turned out on the whole so
successfully, that he was not alarmed by the dissipation of boys; ’twas
dangerous water, but, he thought, they would soon touch bottom, and then
swim to the top. This is bold practice, and there are many failures to a
good escape.  Yet one would say, that a good understanding would suffice
as well as moral sensibility to keep one erect; the gratifications of
the passions are so quickly seen to be damaging, and,—what men like
least,—seriously lowering them in social rank.  Then all talent sinks
with character.

"_Croyez moi, l’erreur aussi a son mérite_," said Voltaire.  We see
those who surmount, by dint of some egotism or infatuation, obstacles
from which the prudent recoil.  The right partisan is a heady narrow
man, who, because he does not see many things, sees some one thing with
heat and exaggeration, and, if he falls among other narrow men, or on
objects which have a brief importance, as some trade or politics of the
hour, he prefers it to the universe, and seems inspired, and a godsend
to those who wish to magnify the matter, and carry a point.  Better,
certainly, if we could secure the strength and fire which rude,
passionate men bring into society, quite clear of their vices.  But who
dares draw out the linchpin from the wagon-wheel? ’Tis so manifest, that
there is no moral deformity, but is a good passion out of place; that
there is no man who is not indebted to his foibles; that, according to
the old oracle, "the Furies are the bonds of men;" that the poisons are
our principal medicines, which kill the disease, and save the life.  In
the high prophetic phrase, _He causes the wrath of man to praise him_,
and twists and wrenches our evil to our good. Shakspeare wrote,—

    "’Tis said, best men are moulded of their faults;"

and great educators and lawgivers, and especially generals, and leaders
of colonies, mainly rely on this stuff, and esteem men of irregular and
passional force the best timber.  A man of sense and energy, the late
head of the Farm School in Boston harbor, said to me, "I want none of
your good boys,—give me the bad ones."  And this is the reason, I
suppose, why, as soon as the children are good, the mothers are scared,
and think they are going to die.  Mirabeau said, "There are none but men
of strong passions capable of going to greatness; none but such capable
of meriting the public gratitude."  Passion, though a bad regulator, is
a powerful spring.  Any absorbing passion has the effect to deliver from
the little coils and cares of every day: ’tis the heat which sets our
human atoms spinning, overcomes the friction of crossing thresholds, and
first addresses in society, and gives us a good start and speed, easy to
continue, when once it is begun.  In short, there is no man who is not
at some time indebted to his vices, as no plant that is not fed from
manures.  We only insist that the man meliorate, and that the plant grow
upward, and convert the base into the better nature.

The wise workman will not regret the poverty or the solitude which
brought out his working talents. The youth is charmed with the fine air
and accomplishments of the children of fortune.  But all great men come
out of the middle classes.  ’Tis better for the head; ’tis better for
the heart.  Marcus Antoninus says, that Fronto told him, "that the
so-called high-born are for the most part heartless;" whilst nothing is
so indicative of deepest culture as a tender consideration of the
ignorant.  Charles James Fox said of England, "The history of this
country proves, that we are not to expect from men in affluent
circumstances the vigilance, energy, and exertion without which the
House of Commons would lose its greatest force and weight.  Human nature
is prone to indulgence, and the most meritorious public services have
always been performed by persons in a condition of life removed from
opulence."  And yet what we ask daily, is to be conventional.  Supply,
most kind gods! this defect in my address, in my form, in my fortunes,
which puts me a little out of the ring: supply it, and let me be like
the rest whom I admire, and on good terms with them.  But the wise gods
say, No, we have better things for thee.  By humiliations, by defeats,
by loss of sympathy, by gulfs of disparity, learn a wider truth and
humanity than that of a fine gentleman.  A Fifth-Avenue landlord, a
West-End householder, is not the highest style of man: and, though good
hearts and sound minds are of no condition, yet he who is to be wise for
many, must not be protected.  He must know the huts where poor men lie,
and the chores which poor men do.  The first-class minds, Æsop,
Socrates, Cervantes, Shakspeare, Franklin, had the poor man’s feeling
and mortification.  A rich man was never insulted in his life: but this
man must be stung.  A rich man was never in danger from cold, or hunger,
or war, or ruffians, and you can see he was not, from the moderation of
his ideas.  ’Tis a fatal disadvantage to be cockered, and to eat too
much cake.  What tests of manhood could he stand?  Take him out of his
protections.  He is a good book-keeper; or he is a shrewd adviser in the
insurance office: perhaps he could pass a college examination, and take
his degrees: perhaps he can give wise counsel in a court of law.  Now
plant him down among farmers, firemen, Indians, and emigrants.  Set a
dog on him: set a highwayman on him: try him with a course of mobs: send
him to Kansas, to Pike’s Peak, to Oregon: and, if he have true faculty,
this may be the element he wants, and he will come out of it with
broader wisdom and manly power. Æsop, Saadi, Cervantes, Regnard, have
been taken by corsairs, left for dead, sold for slaves, and know the
realities of human life.

Bad times have a scientific value.  These are occasions a good learner
would not miss.  As we go gladly to Faneuil Hall, to be played upon by
the stormy winds and strong fingers of enraged patriotism, so is a
fanatical persecution, civil war, national bankruptcy, or revolution,
more rich in the central tones than languid years of prosperity. What
had been, ever since our memory, solid continent, yawns apart, and
discloses its composition and genesis.  We learn geology the morning
after the earthquake, on ghastly diagrams of cloven mountains, upheaved
plains, and the dry bed of the sea.

In our life and culture, everything is worked up, and comes in
use,—passion, war, revolt, bankruptcy, and not less, folly and blunders,
insult, ennui, and bad company.  Nature is a rag-merchant, who works up
every shred and ort and end into new creations; like a good chemist,
whom I found, the other day, in his laboratory, converting his old
shirts into pure white sugar.  Life is a boundless privilege, and when
you pay for your ticket, and get into the car, you have no guess what
good company you shall find there.  You buy much that is not rendered in
the bill.  Men achieve a certain greatness unawares, when working to
another aim.

If now in this connection of discourse, we should venture on laying down
the first obvious rules of life, I will not here repeat the first rule
of economy, already propounded once and again, that every man shall
maintain himself,—but I will say, get health.  No labor, pains,
temperance, poverty, nor exercise, that can gain it, must be grudged.
For sickness is a cannibal which eats up all the life and youth it can
lay hold of, and absorbs its own sons and daughters.  I figure it as a
pale, wailing, distracted phantom, absolutely selfish, heedless of what
is good and great, attentive to its sensations, losing its soul, and
afflicting other souls with meanness and mopings, and with ministration
to its voracity of trifles.  Dr. Johnson said severely, "Every man is a
rascal as soon as he is sick."  Drop the cant, and treat it sanely.  In
dealing with the drunken, we do not affect to be drunk. We must treat
the sick with the same firmness, giving them, of course, every aid,—but
withholding ourselves.  I once asked a clergyman in a retired town, who
were his companions? what men of ability he saw? he replied, that he
spent his time with the sick and the dying.  I said, he seemed to me to
need quite other company, and all the more that he had this: for if
people were sick and dying to any purpose, we would leave all and go to
them, but, as far as I had observed, they were as frivolous as the rest,
and sometimes much more frivolous.  Let us engage our companions not to
spare us.  I knew a wise woman who said to her friends, "When I am old,
rule me."  And the best part of health is fine disposition.  It is more
essential than talent, even in the works of talent.  Nothing will supply
the want of sunshine to peaches, and, to make knowledge valuable, you
must have the cheerfulness of wisdom.  Whenever you are sincerely
pleased, you are nourished.  The joy of the spirit indicates its
strength.  All healthy things are sweet-tempered.  Genius works in
sport, and goodness smiles to the last; and, for the reason, that
whoever sees the law which distributes things, does not despond, but is
animated to great desires and endeavors.  He who desponds betrays that
he has not seen it.

’Tis a Dutch proverb, that "paint costs nothing," such are its
preserving qualities in damp climates. Well, sunshine costs less, yet is
finer pigment.  And so of cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is
spent, the more of it remains.  The latent heat of an ounce of wood or
stone is inexhaustible.  You may rub the same chip of pine to the point
of kindling, a hundred times; and the power of happiness of any soul is
not to be computed or drained.  It is observed that a depression of
spirits develops the germs of a plague in individuals and nations.

It is an old commendation of right behavior, "_Aliis lœtus, sapiens
sibi_," which our English proverb translates, "Be merry _and_ wise."  I
know how easy it is to men of the world to look grave and sneer at your
sanguine youth, and its glittering dreams.  But I find the gayest
castles in the air that were ever piled, far better for comfort and for
use, than the dungeons in the air that are daily dug and caverned out by
grumbling, discontented people. I know those miserable fellows, and I
hate them, who see a black star always riding through the light and
colored clouds in the sky overhead: waves of light pass over and hide it
for a moment, but the black star keeps fast in the zenith.  But power
dwells with cheerfulness; hope puts us in a working mood, whilst despair
is no muse, and untunes the active powers.  A man should make life and
Nature happier to us, or he had better never been born.  When the
political economist reckons up the unproductive classes, he should put
at the head this class of pitiers of themselves, cravers of sympathy,
bewailing imaginary disasters.  An old French verse runs, in my

    Some of your griefs you have cured,
      And the sharpest you still have survived;
    But what torments of pain you endured
      From evils that never arrived!

There are three wants which never can be satisfied: that of the rich,
who wants something more; that of the sick, who wants something
different; and that of the traveller, who says, ’Anywhere but here.’
The Turkish cadi said to Layard, "After the fashion of thy people, thou
hast wandered from one place to another, until thou art happy and
content in none."  My countrymen are not less infatuated with the
_rococo_ toy of Italy.  All America seems on the point of embarking for
Europe.  But we shall not always traverse seas and lands with light
purposes, and for pleasure, as we say.  One day we shall cast out the
passion for Europe, by the passion for America.  Culture will give
gravity and domestic rest to those who now travel only as not knowing
how else to spend money.  Already, who provoke pity like that excellent
family party just arriving in their well-appointed carriage, as far from
home and any honest end as ever?  Each nation has asked successively,
’What are they here for?’ until at last the party are shamefaced, and
anticipate the question at the gates of each town.

Genial manners are good, and power of accommodation to any circumstance,
but the high prize of life, the crowning fortune of a man is to be born
with a bias to some pursuit, which finds him in employment and
happiness,—whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or
statutes, or songs.  I doubt not this was the meaning of Socrates, when
he pronounced artists the only truly wise, as being actually, not
apparently so.

In childhood, we fancied ourselves walled in by the horizon, as by a
glass bell, and doubted not, by distant travel, we should reach the
baths of the descending sun and stars.  On experiment, the horizon flies
before us, and leaves us on an endless common, sheltered by no glass
bell.  Yet ’tis strange how tenaciously we cling to that bell-astronomy,
of a protecting domestic horizon.  I find the same illusion in the
search after happiness, which I observe, every summer, recommenced in
this neighborhood, soon after the pairing of the birds.  The young
people do not like the town, do not like the sea-shore, they will go
inland; find a dear cottage deep in the mountains, secret as their
hearts.  They set forth on their travels in search of a home: they reach
Berkshire; they reach Vermont; they look at the farms;—good farms, high
mountain-sides: but where is the seclusion?  The farm is near this; ’tis
near that; they have got far from Boston, but ’tis near Albany, or near
Burlington, or near Montreal.  They explore a farm, but the house is
small, old, thin; discontented people lived there, and are gone:—there’s
too much sky, too much out-doors; too public.  The youth aches for
solitude.  When he comes to the house, he passes through the house. That
does not make the deep recess he sought. ’Ah! now, I perceive,’ he says,
’it must be deep with persons; friends only can give depth.’  Yes, but
there is a great dearth, this year, of friends; hard to find, and hard
to have when found: they are just going away: they too are in the whirl
of the flitting world, and have engagements and necessities.  They are
just starting for Wisconsin; have letters from Bremen:—see you again,
soon.  Slow, slow to learn the lesson, that there is but one depth, but
one interior, and that is—his purpose.  When joy or calamity or genius
shall show him it, then woods, then farms, then city shopmen and
cab-drivers, indifferently with prophet or friend, will mirror back to
him its unfathomable heaven, its populous solitude.

The uses of travel are occasional, and short; but the best fruit it
finds, when it finds it, is conversation; and this is a main function of
life.  What a difference in the hospitality of minds!  Inestimable is he
to whom we can say what we cannot say to ourselves.  Others are
involuntarily hurtful to us, and bereave us of the power of thought,
impound and imprison us.  As, when there is sympathy, there needs but
one wise man in a company, and all are wise,—so, a blockhead makes a
blockhead of his companion.  Wonderful power to benumb possesses this
brother.  When he comes into the office or public room, the society
dissolves; one after another slips out, and the apartment is at his
disposal.  What is incurable but a frivolous habit?

A fly is as untamable as a hyena.  Yet folly in the sense of fun,
fooling, or dawdling can easily be borne; as Talleyrand said, "I find
nonsense singularly refreshing;" but a virulent, aggressive fool taints
the reason of a household.  I have seen a whole family of quiet,
sensible people unhinged and beside themselves, victims of such a rogue.
For the steady wrongheadedness of one perverse person irritates the
best: since we must withstand absurdity.  But resistance only
exasperates the acrid fool, who believes that Nature and gravitation are
quite wrong, and he only is right.  Hence all the dozen inmates are soon
perverted, with whatever virtues and industries they have, into
contradictors, accusers, explainers, and repairers of this one
malefactor; like a boat about to be overset, or a carriage run away
with,—not only the foolish pilot or driver, but everybody on board is
forced to assume strange and ridiculous attitudes, to balance the
vehicle and prevent the upsetting.  For remedy, whilst the case is yet
mild, I recommend phlegm and truth: let all the truth that is spoken or
done be at the zero of indifferency, or truth itself will be folly.
But, when the case is seated and malignant, the only safety is in
amputation; as seamen say, you shall cut and run.  How to live with
unfit companions?—for, with such, life is for the most part spent: and
experience teaches little better than our earliest instinct of
self-defence, namely, not to engage, not to mix yourself in any manner
with them; but let their madness spend itself unopposed;—you are you,
and I am I.

Conversation is an art in which a man has all mankind for his
competitors, for it is that which all are practising every day while
they live.  Our habit of thought,—take men as they rise,—is not
satisfying; in the common experience, I fear, it is poor and squalid.
The success which will content them, is, a bargain, a lucrative
employment, an advantage gained over a competitor, a marriage, a
patrimony, a legacy, and the like.  With these objects, their
conversation deals with surfaces: politics, trade, personal defects,
exaggerated bad news, and the rain.  This is forlorn, and they feel sore
and sensitive.  Now, if one comes who can illuminate this dark house
with thoughts, show them their native riches, what gifts they have, how
indispensable each is, what magical powers over nature and men; what
access to poetry, religion, and the powers which constitute character;
he wakes in them the feeling of worth, his suggestions require new ways
of living, new books, new men, new arts and sciences,—then we come out
of our egg-shell existence into the great dome, and see the zenith over
and the nadir under us.  Instead of the tanks and buckets of knowledge
to which we are daily confined, we come down to the shore of the sea,
and dip our hands in its miraculous waves.  ’Tis wonderful the effect on
the company. They are not the men they were.  They have all been to
California, and all have come back millionnaires.  There is no book and
no pleasure in life comparable to it.  Ask what is best in our
experience, and we shall say, a few pieces of plain-dealing with wise
people.  Our conversation once and again has apprised us that we belong
to better circles than we have yet beheld; that a mental power invites
us, whose generalizations are more worth for joy and for effect than
anything that is now called philosophy or literature.  In excited
conversation, we have glimpses of the Universe, hints of power native to
the soul, far-darting lights and shadows of an Andes landscape, such as
we can hardly attain in lone meditation.  Here are oracles sometimes
profusely given, to which the memory goes back in barren hours.

Add the consent of will and temperament, and there exists the covenant
of friendship.  Our chief want in life, is, somebody who shall make us
do what we can.  This is the service of a friend. With him we are easily
great.  There is a sublime attraction in him to whatever virtue is in
us.  How he flings wide the doors of existence!  What questions we ask
of him! what an understanding we have! how few words are needed!  It is
the only real society.  An Eastern poet, Ali Ben Abu Taleb, writes with
sad truth,—

    "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,
    And he who has one enemy shall meet him everywhere."

But few writers have said anything better to this point than Hafiz, who
indicates this relation as the test of mental health: "Thou learnest no
secret until thou knowest friendship, since to the unsound no heavenly
knowledge enters."  Neither is life long enough for friendship.  That is
a serious and majestic affair, like a royal presence, or a religion, and
not a postilion’s dinner to be eaten on the run. There is a pudency
about friendship, as about love, and though fine souls never lose sight
of it, yet they do not name it.  With the first class of men our
friendship or good understanding goes quite behind all accidents of
estrangement, of condition, of reputation.  And yet we do not provide
for the greatest good of life.  We take care of our health; we lay up
money; we make our roof tight, and our clothing sufficient; but who
provides wisely that he shall not be wanting in the best property of
all,—friends? We know that all our training is to fit us for this, and
we do not take the step towards it.  How long shall we sit and wait for
these benefactors?

It makes no difference, in looking back five years, how you have been
dieted or dressed; whether you have been lodged on the first floor or
the attic; whether you have had gardens and baths, good cattle and
horses, have been carried in a neat equipage, or in a ridiculous truck:
these things are forgotten so quickly, and leave no effect.  But it
counts much whether we have had good companions, in that time;—almost as
much as what we have been doing.  And see the overpowering importance of
neighborhood in all association.  As it is marriage, fit or unfit, that
makes our home, so it is who lives near us of equal social degree,—a few
people at convenient distance, no matter how bad company,—these, and
these only, shall be your life’s companions: and all those who are
native, congenial, and by many an oath of the heart, sacramented to you,
are gradually and totally lost.  You cannot deal systematically with
this fine element of society, and one may take a good deal of pains to
bring people together, and to organize clubs and debating societies, and
yet no result come of it. But it is certain that there is a great deal
of good in us that does not know itself, and that a habit of union and
competition brings people up and keeps them up to their highest point;
that life would be twice or ten times life, if spent with wise and
fruitful companions.  The obvious inference is, a little useful
deliberation and preconcert, when one goes to buy house and land.

But we live with people on other platforms; we live with dependents, not
only with the young whom we are to teach all we know, and clothe with
the advantages we have earned, but also with those who serve us
directly, and for money.  Yet the old rules hold good.  Let not the tie
be mercenary, though the service is measured by money. Make yourself
necessary to somebody.  Do not make life hard to any.  This point is
acquiring new importance in American social life.  Our domestic service
is usually a foolish fracas of unreasonable demand on one side, and
shirking on the other.  A man of wit was asked, in the train, what was
his errand in the city?  He replied, "I have been sent to procure an
angel to do cooking."  A lady complained to me, that, of her two
maidens, one was absent-minded, and the other was absent-bodied. And the
evil increases from the ignorance and hostility of every ship-load of
the immigrant population swarming into houses and farms.  Few people
discern that it rests with the master or the mistress what service comes
from the man or the maid; that this identical hussy was a tutelar spirit
in one house, and a haridan in the other.  All sensible people are
selfish, and nature is tugging at every contract to make the terms of it
fair.  If you are proposing only your own, the other party must deal a
little hardly by you.  If you deal generously, the other, though selfish
and unjust, will make an exception in your favor, and deal truly with
you. When I asked an iron-master about the slag and cinder in railroad
iron,—"O," he said, "there’s always good iron to be had: if there’s
cinder in the iron, ’tis because there was cinder in the pay."

But why multiply these topics, and their illustrations, which are
endless?  Life brings to each his task, and, whatever art you select,
algebra, planting, architecture, poems, commerce, politics,—all are
attainable, even to the miraculous triumphs, on the same terms, of
selecting that for which you are apt;—begin at the beginning, proceed in
order, step by step.  ’Tis as easy to twist iron anchors, and braid
cannons, as to braid straw, to boil granite as to boil water, if you
take all the steps in order. Wherever there is failure, there is some
giddiness, some superstition about luck, some step omitted, which Nature
never pardons.  The happy conditions of life may be had on the same
terms. Their attraction for you is the pledge that they are within your
reach.  Our prayers are prophets. There must be fidelity, and there must
be adherence.  How respectable the life that clings to its objects!
Youthful aspirations are fine things, your theories and plans of life
are fair and commendable:—but will you stick?  Not one, I fear, in that
Common full of people, or, in a thousand, but one: and, when you tax
them with treachery, and remind them of their high resolutions, they
have forgotten that they made a vow.  The individuals are fugitive, and
in the act of becoming something else, and irresponsible.  The race is
great, the ideal fair, but the men whiffling and unsure.  The hero is he
who is immovably centred.  The main difference between people seems to
be, that one man can come under obligations on which you can rely,—is
obligable; and another is not.  As he has not a law within him, there’s
nothing to tie him to.

’Tis inevitable to name particulars of virtue, and of condition, and to
exaggerate them.  But all rests at last on that integrity which dwarfs
talent, and can spare it.  Sanity consists in not being subdued by your
means.  Fancy prices are paid for position, and for the culture of
talent, but to the grand interests, superficial success is of no
account. The man,—it is his attitude,—not feats, but forces,—not on set
days and public occasions, but, at all hours, and in repose alike as in
energy, still formidable, and not to be disposed of.  The populace says,
with Horne Tooke, "If you would be powerful, pretend to be powerful."  I
prefer to say, with the old prophet, "Seekest thou great things? seek
them not:"—or, what was said of a Spanish prince, "The more you took
from him, the greater he looked."  _Plus on lui ôte, plus il est grand_.

The secret of culture is to learn, that a few great points steadily
reappear, alike in the poverty of the obscurest farm, and in the
miscellany of metropolitan life, and that these few are alone to be
regarded,—the escape from all false ties; courage to be what we are; and
love of what is simple and beautiful; independence, and cheerful
relation, these are the essentials,—these, and the wish to serve,—to add
somewhat to the well-being of men.



    Was never form and never face
    So sweet to SEYD as only grace
    Which did not slumber like a stone
    But hovered gleaming and was gone.
    Beauty chased he everywhere,
    In flame, in storm, in clouds of air.
    He smote the lake to feed his eye
      With the beryl beam of the broken wave
    He flung in pebbles well to hear
      The moment’s music which they gave.
    Oft pealed for him a lofty tone
    From nodding pole and belting zone.
    He heard a voice none else could hear
    From centred and from errant sphere.
    The quaking earth did quake in rhyme,
    Seas ebbed and flowed in epic chime.
    In dens of passion, and pits of wo,
    He saw strong Eros struggling through,
    To sun the dark and solve the curse,
    And beam to the bounds of the universe.
    While thus to love he gave his days
    In loyal worship, scorning praise,
    How spread their lures for him, in vain,
    Thieving Ambition and paltering Gain!
    He thought it happier to be dead,
    To die for Beauty, than live for bread.


The spiral tendency of vegetation infects education also.  Our books
approach very slowly the things we most wish to know.  What a parade we
make of our science, and how far off, and at arm’s length, it is from
its objects!  Our botany is all names, not powers: poets and romancers
talk of herbs of grace and healing; but what does the botanist know of
the virtues of his weeds?  The geologist lays bare the strata, and can
tell them all on his fingers: but does he know what effect passes into
the man who builds his house in them? what effect on the race that
inhabits a granite shelf? what on the inhabitants of marl and of

We should go to the ornithologist with a new feeling, if he could teach
us what the social birds say, when they sit in the autumn council,
talking together in the trees.  The want of sympathy makes his record a
dull dictionary.  His result is a dead bird.  The bird is not in its
ounces and inches, but in its relations to Nature; and the skin or
skeleton you show me, is no more a heron, than a heap of ashes or a
bottle of gases into which his body has been reduced, is Dante or
Washington. The naturalist is led _from_ the road by the whole distance
of his fancied advance.  The boy had juster views when he gazed at the
shells on the beach, or the flowers in the meadow, unable to call them
by their names, than the man in the pride of his nomenclature.
Astrology interested us, for it tied man to the system.  Instead of an
isolated beggar, the farthest star felt him, and he felt the star.
However rash and however falsified by pretenders and traders in it, the
hint was true and divine, the soul’s avowal of its large relations, and,
that climate, century, remote natures, as well as near, are part of its
biography.  Chemistry takes to pieces, but it does not construct.
Alchemy which sought to transmute one element into another, to prolong
life, to arm with power,—that was in the right direction.  All our
science lacks a human side. The tenant is more than the house.  Bugs and
stamens and spores, on which we lavish so many years, are not
finalities, and man, when his powers unfold in order, will take Nature
along with him, and emit light into all her recesses.  The human heart
concerns us more than the poring into microscopes, and is larger than
can be measured by the pompous figures of the astronomer.

We are just so frivolous and skeptical.  Men hold themselves cheap and
vile: and yet a man is a fagot of thunderbolts.  All the elements pour
through his system: he is the flood of the flood, and fire of the fire;
he feels the antipodes and the pole, as drops of his blood: they are the
extension of his personality.  His duties are measured by that
instrument he is; and a right and perfect man would be felt to the
centre of the Copernican system.  ’Tis curious that we only believe as
deep as we live.  We do not think heroes can exert any more awful power
than that surface-play which amuses us.  A deep man believes in
miracles, waits for them, believes in magic, believes that the orator
will decompose his adversary; believes that the evil eye can wither,
that the heart’s blessing can heal; that love can exalt talent; can
overcome all odds.  From a great heart secret magnetisms flow
incessantly to draw great events. But we prize very humble utilities, a
prudent husband, a good son, a voter, a citizen, and deprecate any
romance of character; and perhaps reckon only his money value,—his
intellect, his affection, as a sort of bill of exchange, easily
convertible into fine chambers, pictures, music, and wine.

The motive of science was the extension of man, on all sides, into
Nature, till his hands should touch the stars, his eyes see through the
earth, his ears understand the language of beast and bird, and the sense
of the wind; and, through his sympathy, heaven and earth should talk
with him.  But that is not our science.  These geologies, chemistries,
astronomies, seem to make wise, but they leave us where they found us.
The invention is of use to the inventor, of questionable help to any
other. The formulas of science are like the papers in your pocket-book,
of no value to any but the owner. Science in England, in America, is
jealous of theory, hates the name of love and moral purpose.  There’s a
revenge for this inhumanity. What manner of man does science make?  The
boy is not attracted.  He says, I do not wish to be such a kind of man
as my professor is.  The collector has dried all the plants in his
herbal, but he has lost weight and humor.  He has got all snakes and
lizards in his phials, but science has done for him also, and has put
the man into a bottle.  Our reliance on the physician is a kind of
despair of ourselves.  The clergy have bronchitis, which does not seem a
certificate of spiritual health.  Macready thought it came of the
_falsetto_ of their voicing. An Indian prince, Tisso, one day riding in
the forest, saw a herd of elk sporting.  "See how happy," he said,
"these browsing elks are!  Why should not priests, lodged and fed
comfortably in the temples, also amuse themselves?"  Returning home, he
imparted this reflection to the king.  The king, on the next day,
conferred the sovereignty on him, saying, "Prince, administer this
empire for seven days: at the termination of that period, I shall put
thee to death."  At the end of the seventh day, the king inquired, "From
what cause hast thou become so emaciated?"  He answered, "From the
horror of death."  The monarch rejoined: "Live, my child, and be wise.
Thou hast ceased to take recreation, saying to thyself, in seven days I
shall be put to death.  These priests in the temple incessantly meditate
on death; how can they enter into healthful diversions?"  But the men of
science or the doctors or the clergy are not victims of their pursuits,
more than others.  The miller, the lawyer, and the merchant, dedicate
themselves to their own details, and do not come out men of more force.
Have they divination, grand aims, hospitality of soul, and the equality
to any event, which we demand in man, or only the reactions of the mill,
of the wares, of the chicane?

No object really interests us but man, and in man only his
superiorities; and, though we are aware of a perfect law in Nature, it
has fascination for us only through its relation to him, or, as it is
rooted in the mind.  At the birth of Winckelmann, more than a hundred
years ago, side by side with this arid, departmental, _post mortem_
science, rose an enthusiasm in the study of Beauty; and perhaps some
sparks from it may yet light a conflagration in the other.  Knowledge of
men, knowledge of manners, the power of form, and our sensibility to
personal influence, never go out of fashion.  These are facts of a
science which we study without book, whose teachers and subjects are
always near us.

So inveterate is our habit of criticism, that much of our knowledge in
this direction belongs to the chapter of pathology.  The crowd in the
street oftener furnishes degradations than angels or redeemers: but they
all prove the transparency. Every spirit makes its house; and we can
give a shrewd guess from the house to the inhabitant. But not less does
Nature furnish us with every sign of grace and goodness.  The delicious
faces of children, the beauty of school-girls, "the sweet seriousness of
sixteen," the lofty air of well-born, well-bred boys, the passionate
histories in the looks and manners of youth and early manhood, and the
varied power in all that well-known company that escort us through
life,—we know how these forms thrill, paralyze, provoke, inspire, and
enlarge us.

Beauty is the form under which the intellect prefers to study the world.
All privilege is that of beauty; for there are many beauties; as, of
general nature, of the human face and form, of manners, of brain, or
method, moral beauty, or beauty of the soul.

The ancients believed that a genius or demon took possession at birth of
each mortal, to guide him; that these genii were sometimes seen as a
flame of fire partly immersed in the bodies which they governed;—on an
evil man, resting on his head; in a good man, mixed with his substance.
They thought the same genius, at the death of its ward, entered a
new-born child, and they pretended to guess the pilot, by the sailing of
the ship. We recognize obscurely the same fact, though we give it our
own names.  We say, that every man is entitled to be valued by his best
moment.  We measure our friends so.  We know, they have intervals of
folly, whereof we take no heed, but wait the reappearings of the genius,
which are sure and beautiful.  On the other side, everybody knows people
who appear beridden, and who, with all degrees of ability, never impress
us with the air of free agency.  They know it too, and peep with their
eyes to see if you detect their sad plight.  We fancy, could we
pronounce the solving word, and disenchant them, the cloud would roll
up, the little rider would be discovered and unseated, and they would
regain their freedom.  The remedy seems never to be far off, since the
first step into thought lifts this mountain of necessity. Thought is the
pent air-ball which can rive the planet, and the beauty which certain
objects have for him, is the friendly fire which expands the thought,
and acquaints the prisoner that liberty and power await him.

The question of Beauty takes us out of surfaces, to thinking of the
foundations of things.  Goethe said, "The beautiful is a manifestation
of secret laws of Nature, which, but for this appearance, had been
forever concealed from us."  And the working of this deep instinct makes
all the excitement—much of it superficial and absurd enough—about works
of art, which leads armies of vain travellers every year to Italy,
Greece, and Egypt. Every man values every acquisition he makes in the
science of beauty, above his possessions. The most useful man in the
most useful world, so long as only commodity was served, would remain
unsatisfied.  But, as fast as he sees beauty, life acquires a very high

I am warned by the ill fate of many philosophers not to attempt a
definition of Beauty.  I will rather enumerate a few of its qualities.
We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous
parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all
things; which is the mean of many extremes.  It is the most enduring
quality, and the most ascending quality.  We say, love is blind, and the
figure of Cupid is drawn with a bandage round his eyes.  Blind:—yes,
because he does not see what he does not like; but the sharpest-sighted
hunter in the universe is Love, for finding what he seeks, and only
that; and the mythologists tell us, that Vulcan was painted lame, and
Cupid blind, to call attention to the fact, that one was all limbs, and
the other, all eyes.  In the true mythology, Love is an immortal child,
and Beauty leads him as a guide: nor can we express a deeper sense than
when we say, Beauty is the pilot of the young soul.

Beyond their sensuous delight, the forms and colors of Nature have a new
charm for us in our perception, that not one ornament was added for
ornament, but is a sign of some better health, or more excellent action.
Elegance of form in bird or beast, or in the human figure, marks some
excellence of structure: or beauty is only an invitation from what
belongs to us.  ’Tis a law of botany, that in plants, the same virtues
follow the same forms.  It is a rule of largest application, true in a
plant, true in a loaf of bread, that in the construction of any fabric
or organism, any real increase of fitness to its end, is an increase of

The lesson taught by the study of Greek and of Gothic art, of antique
and of Pre-Raphaelite painting, was worth all the research,—namely, that
all beauty must be organic; that outside embellishment is deformity.  It
is the soundness of the bones that ultimates itself in a peach-bloom
complexion: health of constitution that makes the sparkle and the power
of the eye.  ’Tis the adjustment of the size and of the joining of the
sockets of the skeleton, that gives grace of outline and the finer grace
of movement.  The cat and the deer cannot move or sit inelegantly.  The
dancing-master can never teach a badly built man to walk well.  The tint
of the flower proceeds from its root, and the lustres of the sea-shell
begin with its existence.  Hence our taste in building rejects paint,
and all shifts, and shows the original grain of the wood: refuses
pilasters and columns that support nothing, and allows the real
supporters of the house honestly to show themselves.  Every necessary or
organic action pleases the beholder. A man leading a horse to water, a
farmer sowing seed, the labors of haymakers in the field, the carpenter
building a ship, the smith at his forge, or, whatever useful labor, is
becoming to the wise eye. But if it is done to be seen, it is mean.  How
beautiful are ships on the sea! but ships in the theatre,—or ships kept
for picturesque effect on Virginia Water, by George IV., and men hired
to stand in fitting costumes at a penny an hour!—What a difference in
effect between a battalion of troops marching to action, and one of our
independent companies on a holiday!  In the midst of a military show,
and a festal procession gay with banners, I saw a boy seize an old tin
pan that lay rusting under a wall, and poising it on the top of a stick,
he set it turning, and made it describe the most elegant imaginable
curves, and drew away attention from the decorated procession by this
startling beauty.

Another text from the mythologists.  The Greeks fabled that Venus was
born of the foam of the sea.  Nothing interests us which is stark or
bounded, but only what streams with life, what is in act or endeavor to
reach somewhat beyond.  The pleasure a palace or a temple gives the eye,
is, that an order and method has been communicated to stones, so that
they speak and geometrize, become tender or sublime with expression.
Beauty is the moment of transition, as if the form were just ready to
flow into other forms.  Any fixedness, heaping, or concentration on one
feature,—a long nose, a sharp chin, a hump-back,—is the reverse of the
flowing, and therefore deformed.  Beautiful as is the symmetry of any
form, if the form can move, we seek a more excellent symmetry.  The
interruption of equilibrium stimulates the eye to desire the restoration
of symmetry, and to watch the steps through which it is attained.  This
is the charm of running water, sea-waves, the flight of birds, and the
locomotion of animals.  This is the theory of dancing, to recover
continually in changes the lost equilibrium, not by abrupt and angular,
but by gradual and curving movements.  I have been told by persons of
experience in matters of taste, that the fashions follow a law of
gradation, and are never arbitrary.  The new mode is always only a step
onward in the same direction as the last mode; and a cultivated eye is
prepared for and predicts the new fashion.  This fact suggests the
reason of all mistakes and offence in our own modes.  It is necessary in
music, when you strike a discord, to let down the ear by an intermediate
note or two to the accord again: and many a good experiment, born of
good sense, and destined to succeed, fails, only because it is
offensively sudden.  I suppose, the Parisian milliner who dresses the
world from her imperious boudoir will know how to reconcile the Bloomer
costume to the eye of mankind, and make it triumphant over Punch
himself, by interposing the just gradations.  I need not say, how wide
the same law ranges; and how much it can be hoped to effect.  All that
is a little harshly claimed by progressive parties, may easily come to
be conceded without question, if this rule be observed.  Thus the
circumstances may be easily imagined, in which woman may speak, vote,
argue causes, legislate, and drive a coach, and all the most naturally
in the world, if only it come by degrees.  To this streaming or flowing
belongs the beauty that all circular movement has; as, the circulation
of waters, the circulation of the blood, the periodical motion of
planets, the annual wave of vegetation, the action and reaction of
Nature: and, if we follow it out, this demand in our thought for an
ever-onward action, is the argument for the immortality.

One more text from the mythologists is to the same purpose,—_Beauty
rides on a lion_.  Beauty rests on necessities.  The line of beauty is
the result of perfect economy.  The cell of the bee is built at that
angle which gives the most strength with the least wax; the bone or the
quill of the bird gives the most alar strength, with the least weight.
"It is the purgation of superfluities," said Michel Angelo.  There is
not a particle to spare in natural structures.  There is a compelling
reason in the uses of the plant, for every novelty of color or form: and
our art saves material, by more skilful arrangement, and reaches beauty
by taking every superfluous ounce that can be spared from a wall, and
keeping all its strength in the poetry of columns.  In rhetoric, this
art of omission is a chief secret of power, and, in general, it is proof
of high culture, to say the greatest matters in the simplest way.

Veracity first of all, and forever.  _Rien de beau que le vrai_.  In all
design, art lies in making your object prominent, but there is a prior
art in choosing objects that are prominent.  The fine arts have nothing
casual, but spring from the instincts of the nations that created them.

Beauty is the quality which makes to endure. In a house that I know, I
have noticed a block of spermaceti lying about closets and
mantel-pieces, for twenty years together, simply because the tallow-man
gave it the form of a rabbit; and, I suppose, it may continue to be
lugged about unchanged for a century.  Let an artist scrawl a few lines
or figures on the back of a letter, and that scrap of paper is rescued
from danger, is put in portfolio, is framed and glazed, and, in
proportion to the beauty of the lines drawn, will be kept for centuries.
Burns writes a copy of verses, and sends them to a newspaper, and the
human race take charge of them that they shall not perish.

As the flute is heard farther than the cart, see how surely a beautiful
form strikes the fancy of men, and is copied and reproduced without end.
How many copies are there of the Belvedere Apollo, the Venus, the
Psyche, the Warwick Vase, the Parthenon, and the Temple of Vesta?  These
are objects of tenderness to all.  In our cities, an ugly building is
soon removed, and is never repeated, but any beautiful building is
copied and improved upon, so that all masons and carpenters work to
repeat and preserve the agreeable forms, whilst the ugly ones die out.

The felicities of design in art, or in works of Nature, are shadows or
forerunners of that beauty which reaches its perfection in the human
form. All men are its lovers.  Wherever it goes, it creates joy and
hilarity, and everything is permitted to it. It reaches its height in
woman.  "To Eve," say the Mahometans, "God gave two thirds of all
beauty."  A beautiful woman is a practical poet, taming her savage mate,
planting tenderness, hope, and eloquence, in all whom she approaches.
Some favors of condition must go with it, since a certain serenity is
essential, but we love its reproofs and superiorities.  Nature wishes
that woman should attract man, yet she often cunningly moulds into her
face a little sarcasm, which seems to say, ’Yes, I am willing to
attract, but to attract a little better kind of a man than any I yet
behold.’  French _mémoires_ of the fifteenth century celebrate the name
of Pauline de Viguiere, a virtuous and accomplished maiden, who so fired
the enthusiasm of her contemporaries, by her enchanting form, that the
citizens of her native city of Toulouse obtained the aid of the civil
authorities to compel her to appear publicly on the balcony at least
twice a week, and, as often as she showed herself, the crowd was
dangerous to life.  Not less, in England, in the last century, was the
fame of the Gunnings, of whom, Elizabeth married the Duke of Hamilton;
and Maria, the Earl of Coventry.  Walpole says, "the concourse was so
great, when the Duchess of Hamilton was presented at court, on Friday,
that even the noble crowd in the drawing-room clambered on chairs and
tables to look at her.  There are mobs at their doors to see them get
into their chairs, and people go early to get places at the theatres,
when it is known they will be there."  "Such crowds," he adds,
elsewhere, "flock to see the Duchess of Hamilton, that seven hundred
people sat up all night, in and about an inn, in Yorkshire, to see her
get into her post-chaise next morning."

But why need we console ourselves with the fames of Helen of Argos, or
Corinna, or Pauline of Toulouse, or the Duchess of Hamilton?  We all
know this magic very well, or can divine it.  It does not hurt weak eyes
to look into beautiful eyes never so long.  Women stand related to
beautiful Nature around us, and the enamored youth mixes their form with
moon and stars, with woods and waters, and the pomp of summer.  They
heal us of awkwardness by their words and looks.  We observe their
intellectual influence on the most serious student.  They refine and
clear his mind; teach him to put a pleasing method into what is dry and
difficult.  We talk to them, and wish to be listened to; we fear to
fatigue them, and acquire a facility of expression which passes from
conversation into habit of style.

That Beauty is the normal state, is shown by the perpetual effort of
Nature to attain it.  Mirabeau had an ugly face on a handsome ground;
and we see faces every day which have a good type, but have been marred
in the casting: a proof that we are all entitled to beauty, should have
been beautiful, if our ancestors had kept the laws,—as every lily and
every rose is well.  But our bodies do not fit us, but caricature and
satirize us.  Thus, short legs, which constrain us to short, mincing
steps, are a kind of personal insult and contumely to the owner; and
long stilts, again, put him at perpetual disadvantage, and force him to
stoop to the general level of mankind.  Martial ridicules a gentleman of
his day whose countenance resembled the face of a swimmer seen under
water.  Saadi describes a schoolmaster "so ugly and crabbed, that a
sight of him would derange the ecstasies of the orthodox."  Faces are
rarely true to any ideal type, but are a record in sculpture of a
thousand anecdotes of whim and folly.  Portrait painters say that most
faces and forms are irregular and unsymmetrical; have one eye blue, and
one gray; the nose not straight; and one shoulder higher than another;
the hair unequally distributed, etc.  The man is physically as well as
metaphysically a thing of shreds and patches, borrowed unequally from
good and bad ancestors, and a misfit from the start.

A beautiful person, among the Greeks, was thought to betray by this sign
some secret favor of the immortal gods: and we can pardon pride, when a
woman possesses such a figure, that wherever she stands, or moves, or
leaves a shadow on the wall, or sits for a portrait to the artist, she
confers a favor on the world.  And yet—it is not beauty that inspires
the deepest passion. Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.
Beauty, without expression, tires.  Abbé Ménage said of the President Le
Bailleul, "that he was fit for nothing but to sit for his portrait."  A
Greek epigram intimates that the force of love is not shown by the
courting of beauty, but when the like desire is inflamed for one who is
ill-favored. And petulant old gentlemen, who have chanced to suffer some
intolerable weariness from pretty people, or who have seen cut flowers
to some profusion, or who see, after a world of pains have been
successfully taken for the costume, how the least mistake in sentiment
takes all the beauty out of your clothes,—affirm, that the secret of
ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.

We love any forms, however ugly, from which great qualities shine.  If
command, eloquence, art, or invention, exist in the most deformed
person, all the accidents that usually displease, please, and raise
esteem and wonder higher.  The great orator was an emaciated,
insignificant person, but he was all brain.  Cardinal De Retz says of De
Bouillon, "With the physiognomy of an ox, he had the perspicacity of an
eagle."  It was said of Hooke, the friend of Newton, "he is the most,
and promises the least, of any man in England."  "Since I am so ugly,"
said Du Guesclin, "it behooves that I be bold."  Sir Philip Sidney, the
darling of mankind, Ben Jonson tells us, "was no pleasant man in
countenance, his face being spoiled with pimples, and of high blood, and
long."  Those who have ruled human destinies, like planets, for
thousands of years, were not handsome men.  If a man can raise a small
city to be a great kingdom, can make bread cheap, can irrigate deserts,
can join oceans by canals, can subdue steam, can organize victory, can
lead the opinions of mankind, can enlarge knowledge, ’tis no matter
whether his nose is parallel to his spine, as it ought to be, or whether
he has a nose at all: whether his legs are straight, or whether his legs
are amputated; his deformities will come to be reckoned ornamental, and
advantageous on the whole.  This is the triumph of expression, degrading
beauty, charming us with a power so fine and friendly and intoxicating,
that it makes admired persons insipid, and the thought of passing our
lives with them insupportable.  There are faces so fluid with
expression, so flushed and rippled by the play of thought, that we can
hardly find what the mere features really are.  When the delicious
beauty of lineaments loses its power, it is because a more delicious
beauty has appeared; that an interior and durable form has been
disclosed. Still, Beauty rides on her lion, as before.  Still, "it was
for beauty that the world was made."  The lives of the Italian artists,
who established a despotism of genius amidst the dukes and kings and
mobs of their stormy epoch, prove how loyal men in all times are to a
finer brain, a finer method, than their own.  If a man can cut such a
head on his stone gate-post as shall draw and keep a crowd about it all
day, by its beauty, good nature, and inscrutable meaning:—if a man can
build a plain cottage with such symmetry, as to make all the fine
palaces look cheap and vulgar; can take such advantage of Nature, that
all her powers serve him; making use of geometry, instead of expense;
tapping a mountain for his water-jet; causing the sun and moon to seem
only the decorations of his estate; this is still the legitimate
dominion of beauty.

The radiance of the human form, though sometimes astonishing, is only a
burst of beauty for a few years or a few months, at the perfection of
youth, and in most, rapidly declines.  But we remain lovers of it, only
transferring our interest to interior excellence.  And it is not only
admirable in singular and salient talents, but also in the world of

But the sovereign attribute remains to be noted. Things are pretty,
graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they speak to the
imagination, not yet beautiful.  This is the reason why beauty is still
escaping out of all analysis.  It is not yet possessed, it cannot be
handled.  Proclus says, "it swims on the light of forms."  It is
properly not in the form, but in the mind.  It instantly deserts
possession, and flies to an object in the horizon.  If I could put my
hand on the north star, would it be as beautiful?  The sea is lovely,
but when we bathe in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water.  For
the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at the same time.
Wordsworth rightly speaks of "a light that never was on sea or land,"
meaning, that it was supplied by the observer, and the Welsh bard warns
his countrywomen, that

    —"half of their charms with Cadwallon shall die."

The new virtue which constitutes a thing beautiful, is a certain
cosmical quality, or, a power to suggest relation to the whole world,
and so lift the object out of a pitiful individuality.  Every natural
feature,—sea, sky, rainbow, flowers, musical tone,—has in it somewhat
which is not private, but universal, speaks of that central benefit
which is the soul of Nature, and thereby is beautiful.  And, in chosen
men and women, I find somewhat in form, speech, and manners, which is
not of their person and family, but of a humane, catholic, and spiritual
character, and we love them as the sky.  They have a largeness of
suggestion, and their face and manners carry a certain grandeur, like
time and justice.

The feat of the imagination is in showing the convertibility of every
thing into every other thing. Facts which had never before left their
stark common sense, suddenly figure as Eleusinian mysteries. My boots
and chair and candlestick are fairies in disguise, meteors and
constellations.  All the facts in Nature are nouns of the intellect, and
make the grammar of the eternal language.  Every word has a double,
treble, or centuple use and meaning, What! has my stove and pepper-pot a
false bottom! I cry you mercy, good shoe-box!  I did not know you were a
jewel-case.  Chaff and dust begin to sparkle, and are clothed about with
immortality. And there is a joy in perceiving the representative or
symbolic character of a fact, which no bare fact or event can ever give.
There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some
stroke of the imagination.

The poets are quite right in decking their mistresses with the spoils of
the landscape, flower-gardens, gems, rainbows, flushes of morning, and
stars of night, since all beauty points at identity, and whatsoever
thing does not express to me the sea and sky, day and night, is somewhat
forbidden and wrong.  Into every beautiful object, there enters somewhat
immeasurable and divine, and just as much into form bounded by outlines,
like mountains on the horizon, as into tones of music, or depths of
space.  Polarized light showed the secret architecture of bodies; and
when the _second-sight_ of the mind is opened, now one color or form or
gesture, and now another, has a pungency, as if a more interior ray had
been emitted, disclosing its deep holdings in the frame of things.

The laws of this translation we do not know, or why one feature or
gesture enchants, why one word or syllable intoxicates, but the fact is
familiar that the fine touch of the eye, or a grace of manners, or a
phrase of poetry, plants wings at our shoulders; as if the Divinity, in
his approaches, lifts away mountains of obstruction, and deigns to draw
a truer line, which the mind knows and owns.  This is that haughty force
of beauty, "_vis superba formæ_" which the poets praise,—under calm and
precise outline, the immeasurable and divine: Beauty hiding all wisdom
and power in its calm sky.

All high beauty has a moral element in it, and I find the antique
sculpture as ethical as Marcus Antoninus: and the beauty ever in
proportion to the depth of thought.  Gross and obscure natures, however
decorated, seem impure shambles; but character gives splendor to youth,
and awe to wrinkled skin and gray hairs.  An adorer of truth we cannot
choose but obey, and the woman who has shared with us the moral
sentiment,—her locks must appear to us sublime.  Thus there is a
climbing scale of culture, from the first agreeable sensation which a
sparkling gem or a scarlet stain affords the eye, up through fair
outlines and details of the landscape, features of the human face and
form, signs and tokens of thought and character in manners, up to the
ineffable mysteries of the intellect. Wherever we begin, thither our
steps tend: an ascent from the joy of a horse in his trappings, up to
the perception of Newton, that the globe on which we ride is only a
larger apple falling from a larger tree; up to the perception of Plato,
that globe and universe are rude and early expressions of an
all-dissolving Unity,—the first stair on the scale to the temple of the



    Flow, flow the waves hated,
    Accursed, adored,
    The waves of mutation:
    No anchorage is.
    Sleep is not, death is not;
    Who seem to die live.
    House you were born in,
    Friends of your spring-time,
    Old man and young maid,
    Day’s toil and its guerdon,
    They are all vanishing,
    Fleeing to fables,
    Cannot be moored.
    See the stars through them,
    Through treacherous marbles.
    Know, the stars yonder,
    The stars everlasting,
    Are fugitive also,
    And emulate, vaulted,
    The lambent heat-lightning,
    And fire-fly’s flight.
      When thou dost return
    On the wave’s circulation,
    Beholding the shimmer,
    The wild dissipation,
    And, out of endeavor
    To change and to flow,
    The gas become solid,
    And phantoms and nothings
    Return to be things,
    And endless imbroglio
    Is law and the world,—
    Then first shalt thou know,
    That in the wild turmoil,
    Horsed on the Proteus,
    Thou ridest to power,
    And to endurance.


Some years ago, in company with an agreeable party, I spent a long
summer day in exploring the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  We traversed,
through spacious galleries affording a solid masonry foundation for the
town and county overhead, the six or eight black miles from the mouth of
the cavern to the innermost recess which tourists visit,—a niche or
grotto made of one seamless stalactite, and called, I believe, Serena’s
Bower.  I lost the light of one day.  I saw high domes, and bottomless
pits; heard the voice of unseen waterfalls; paddled three quarters of a
mile in the deep Echo River, whose waters are peopled with the blind
fish; crossed the streams "Lethe" and "Styx;" plied with music and guns
the echoes in these alarming galleries; saw every form of stalagmite and
stalactite in the sculptured and fretted chambers,—icicle,
orange-flower, acanthus, grapes, and snowball.  We shot Bengal lights
into the vaults and groins of the sparry cathedrals, and examined all
the masterpieces which the four combined engineers, water, limestone,
gravitation, and time, could make in the dark.

The mysteries and scenery of the cave had the same dignity that belongs
to all natural objects, and which shames the fine things to which we
foppishly compare them.  I remarked, especially, the mimetic habit, with
which Nature, on new instruments, hums her old tunes, making night to
mimic day, and chemistry to ape vegetation.  But I then took notice, and
still chiefly remember, that the best thing which the cave had to offer
was an illusion.  On arriving at what is called the "Star-Chamber," our
lamps were taken from us by the guide, and extinguished or put aside,
and, on looking upwards, I saw or seemed to see the night heaven thick
with stars glimmering more or less brightly over our heads, and even
what seemed a comet flaming among them.  All the party were touched with
astonishment and pleasure.  Our musical friends sung with much feeling a
pretty song, "The stars are in the quiet sky," &c., and I sat down on
the rocky floor to enjoy the serene picture.  Some crystal specks in the
black ceiling high overhead, reflecting the light of a half-hid lamp,
yielded this magnificent effect.

I own, I did not like the cave so well for eking out its sublimities
with this theatrical trick.  But I have had many experiences like it,
before and since; and we must be content to be pleased without too
curiously analyzing the occasions.  Our conversation with Nature is not
just what it seems.  The cloud-rack, the sunrise and sunset glories,
rainbows, and northern lights are not quite so spheral as our childhood
thought them; and the part our organization plays in them is too large.
The senses interfere everywhere, and mix their own structure with all
they report of.  Once, we fancied the earth a plane, and stationary.  In
admiring the sunset, we do not yet deduct the rounding, coordinating,
pictorial powers of the eye.

The same interference from our organization creates the most of our
pleasure and pain.  Our first mistake is the belief that the
circumstance gives the joy which we give to the circumstance.  Life is
an ecstasy.  Life is sweet as nitrous oxide; and the fisherman dripping
all day over a cold pond, the switchman at the railway intersection, the
farmer in the field, the negro in the rice-swamp, the fop in the street,
the hunter in the woods, the barrister with the jury, the belle at the
ball, all ascribe a certain pleasure to their employment, which they
themselves give it.  Health and appetite impart the sweetness to sugar,
bread, and meat.  We fancy that our civilization has got on far, but we
still come back to our primers.

We live by our imaginations, by our admirations, by our sentiments.  The
child walks amid heaps of illusions, which he does not like to have
disturbed. The boy, how sweet to him is his fancy! how dear the story of
barons and battles!  What a hero he is, whilst he feeds on his heroes!
What a debt is his to imaginative books!  He has no better friend or
influence, than Scott, Shakspeare, Plutarch, and Homer.  The man lives
to other objects, but who dare affirm that they are more real?  Even the
prose of the streets is full of refractions.  In the life of the
dreariest alderman, fancy enters into all details, and colors them with
rosy hue.  He imitates the air and actions of people whom he admires,
and is raised in his own eyes.  He pays a debt quicker to a rich man
than to a poor man. He wishes the bow and compliment of some leader in
the state, or in society; weighs what he says; perhaps he never comes
nearer to him for that, but dies at last better contented for this
amusement of his eyes and his fancy.

The world rolls, the din of life is never hushed. In London, in Paris,
in Boston, in San Francisco, the carnival, the masquerade is at its
height. Nobody drops his domino.  The unities, the fictions of the piece
it would be an impertinence to break. The chapter of fascinations is
very long.  Great is paint; nay, God is the painter; and we rightly
accuse the critic who destroys too many illusions. Society does not love
its unmaskers.  It was wittily, if somewhat bitterly, said by
D’Alembert, "_qu’un état de vapeur était un état trés fâchieux,
parcequ’il nous faisait voir les choses comme elles sont._"  I find men
victims of illusion in all parts of life. Children, youths, adults, and
old men, all are led by one bawble or another.  Yoganidra, the goddess
of illusion, Proteus, or Momus, or Gylfi’s Mocking,—for the Power has
many names,—is stronger than the Titans, stronger than Apollo.  Few have
overheard the gods, or surprised their secret.  Life is a succession of
lessons which must be lived to be understood.  All is riddle, and the
key to a riddle is another riddle.  There are as many pillows of
illusion as flakes in a snow-storm.  We wake from one dream into another
dream.  The toys, to be sure, are various, and are graduated in
refinement to the quality of the dupe.  The intellectual man requires a
fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his
own frenzy, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner
and badge.

Amid the joyous troop who give in to the charivari, comes now and then a
sad-eyed boy, whose eyes lack the requisite refractions to clothe the
show in due glory, and who is afflicted with a tendency to trace home
the glittering miscellany of fruits and flowers to one root.  Science is
a search after identity, and the scientific whim is lurking in all
corners.  At the State Fair, a friend of mine complained that all the
varieties of fancy pears in our orchards seem to have been selected by
somebody who had a whim for a particular kind of pear, and only
cultivated such as had that perfume; they were all alike.  And I
remember the quarrel of another youth with the confectioners, that, when
he racked his wit to choose the best comfits in the shops, in all the
endless varieties of sweetmeat he could only find three flavors, or two.
What then? Pears and cakes are good for something; and because you,
unluckily, have an eye or nose too keen, why need you spoil the comfort
which the rest of us find in them?  I knew a humorist, who, in a good
deal of rattle, had a grain or two of sense.  He shocked the company by
maintaining that the attributes of God were two,—power and risibility;
and that it was the duty of every pious man to keep up the comedy.  And
I have known gentlemen of great stake in the community, but whose
sympathies were cold,—presidents of colleges, and governors, and
senators,—who held themselves bound to sign every temperance pledge, and
act with Bible societies, and missions, and peace-makers, and cry
_Hist-a-boy!_ to every good dog.  We must not carry comity too far, but
we all have kind impulses in this direction.  When the boys come into my
yard for leave to gather horse-chestnuts, I own I enter into Nature’s
game, and affect to grant the permission reluctantly, fearing that any
moment they will find out the imposture of that showy chaff.  But this
tenderness is quite unnecessary; the enchantments are laid on very
thick.  Their young life is thatched with them.  Bare and grim to tears
is the lot of the children in the hovel I saw yesterday; yet not the
less they hung it round with frippery romance, like the children of the
happiest fortune, and talked of "the dear cottage where so many joyful
hours had flown."  Well, this thatching of hovels is the custom of the
country.  Women, more than all, are the element and kingdom of illusion.
Being fascinated, they fascinate.  They see through Claude-Lorraines.
And how dare any one, if he could, pluck away the _coulisses_, stage
effects, and ceremonies, by which they live?  Too pathetic, too
pitiable, is the region of affection, and its atmosphere always liable
to _mirage_.

We are not very much to blame for our bad marriages.  We live amid
hallucinations; and this especial trap is laid to trip up our feet with,
and all are tripped up first or last.  But the mighty Mother who had
been so sly with us, as if she felt that she owed us some indemnity,
insinuates into the Pandora-box of marriage some deep and serious
benefits, and some great joys.  We find a delight in the beauty and
happiness of children, that makes the heart too big for the body.  In
the worst-assorted connections there is ever some mixture of true
marriage.  Teague and his jade get some just relations of mutual
respect, kindly observation, and fostering of each other, learn
something, and would carry themselves wiselier, if they were now to

’Tis fine for us to point at one or another fine madman, as if there
were any exempts.  The scholar in his library is none.  I, who have all
my life heard any number of orations and debates, read poems and
miscellaneous books, conversed with many geniuses, am still the victim
of any new page; and, if Marmaduke, or Hugh, or Moosehead, or any other,
invent a new style or mythology, I fancy that the world will be all
brave and right, if dressed in these colors, which I had not thought of.
Then at once I will daub with this new paint; but it will not stick.
’Tis like the cement which the peddler sells at the door; he makes
broken crockery hold with it, but you can never buy of him a bit of the
cement which will make it hold when he is gone.

Men who make themselves felt in the world avail themselves of a certain
fate in their constitution, which they know how to use.  But they never
deeply interest us, unless they lift a corner of the curtain, or betray
never so slightly their penetration of what is behind it.  ’Tis the
charm of practical men, that outside of their practicality are a certain
poetry and play, as if they led the good horse Power by the bridle, and
preferred to walk, though they can ride so fiercely.  Bonaparte is
intellectual, as well as Cæsar; and the best soldiers, sea-captains, and
railway men have a gentleness, when off duty; a good-natured admission
that there are illusions, and who shall say that he is not their sport?
We stigmatize the cast-iron fellows, who cannot so detach themselves, as
"dragon-ridden," "thunder-stricken," and fools of fate, with whatever
powers endowed.

Since our tuition is through emblems and indirections, ’tis well to know
that there is method in it, a fixed scale, and rank above rank in the
phantasms.  We begin low with coarse masks, and rise to the most subtle
and beautiful.  The red men told Columbus, "they had an herb which took
away fatigue;" but he found the illusion of "arriving from the east at
the Indies" more composing to his lofty spirit than any tobacco.  Is not
our faith in the impenetrability of matter more sedative than narcotics?
You play with jackstraws, balls, bowls, horse and gun, estates and
politics; but there are finer games before you.  Is not time a pretty
toy? Life will show you masks that are worth all your carnivals.  Yonder
mountain must migrate into your mind.  The fine star-dust and nebulous
blur in Orion, "the portentous year of Mizar and Alcor," must come down
and be dealt with in your household thought.  What if you shall come to
discern that the play and playground of all this pompous history are
radiations from yourself, and that the sun borrows his beams?  What
terrible questions we are learning to ask!  The former men believed in
magic, by which temples, cities, and men were swallowed up, and all
trace of them gone. We are coming on the secret of a magic which sweeps
out of men’s minds all vestige of theism and beliefs which they and
their fathers held and were framed upon.

There are deceptions of the senses, deceptions of the passions, and the
structural, beneficent illusions of sentiment and of the intellect.
There is the illusion of love, which attributes to the beloved person
all which that person shares with his or her family, sex, age, or
condition, nay, with the human mind itself.  ’Tis these which the lover
loves, and Anna Matilda gets the credit of them.  As if one shut up
always in a tower, with one window, through which the face of heaven and
earth could be seen, should fancy that all the marvels he beheld
belonged to that window.  There is the illusion of time, which is very
deep; who has disposed of it? or come to the conviction that what seems
the succession of thought is only the distribution of wholes into causal
series?  The intellect sees that every atom carries the whole of Nature;
that the mind opens to omnipotence; that, in the endless striving and
ascents, the metamorphosis is entire, so that the soul doth not know
itself in its own act, when that act is perfected.  There is illusion
that shall deceive even the elect.  There is illusion that shall deceive
even the performer of the miracle.  Though he make his body, he denies
that he makes it. Though the world exist from thought, thought is
daunted in presence of the world.  One after the other we accept the
mental laws, still resisting those which follow, which however must be
accepted. But all our concessions only compel us to new profusion.  And
what avails it that science has come to treat space and time as simply
forms of thought, and the material world as hypothetical, and withal our
pretension of property and even of self-hood are fading with the rest,
if, at last, even our thoughts are not finalities; but the incessant
flowing and ascension reach these also, and each thought which yesterday
was a finality, to-day is yielding to a larger generalization?

With such volatile elements to work in, ’tis no wonder if our estimates
are loose and floating.  We must work and affirm, but we have no guess
of the value of what we say or do.  The cloud is now as big as your
hand, and now it covers a county. That story of Thor, who was set to
drain the drinking-horn in Asgard, and to wrestle with the old woman,
and to run with the runner Lok, and presently found that he had been
drinking up the sea, and wrestling with Time, and racing with Thought,
describes us who are contending, amid these seeming trifles, with the
supreme energies of Nature.  We fancy we have fallen into bad company
and squalid condition, low debts, shoe-bills, broken glass to pay for,
pots to buy, butcher’s meat, sugar, milk, and coal.  ’Set me some great
task, ye gods! and I will show my spirit.’  ’Not so,’ says the good
Heaven; ’plod and plough, vamp your old coats and hats, weave a
shoestring; great affairs and the best wine by and by.’  Well, ’tis all
phantasm; and if we weave a yard of tape in all humility, and as well as
we can, long hereafter we shall see it was no cotton tape at all, but
some galaxy which we braided, and that the threads were Time and Nature.

We cannot write the order of the variable winds. How can we penetrate
the law of our shifting moods and susceptibility?  Yet they differ as
all and nothing.  Instead of the firmament of yesterday, which our eyes
require, it is to-day an eggshell which coops us in; we cannot even see
what or where our stars of destiny are.  From day to day, the capital
facts of human life are hidden from our eyes. Suddenly the mist rolls
up, and reveals them, and we think how much good time is gone, that
might have been saved, had any hint of these things been shown.  A
sudden rise in the road shows us the system of mountains, and all the
summits, which have been just as near us all the year, but quite out of
mind.  But these alternations are not without their order, and we are
parties to our various fortune.  If life seem a succession of dreams,
yet poetic justice is done in dreams also.  The visions of good men are
good; it is the undisciplined will that is whipped with bad thoughts and
bad fortunes. When we break the laws, we lose our hold on the central
reality.  Like sick men in hospitals, we change only from bed to bed,
from one folly to another; and it cannot signify much what becomes of
such castaways,—wailing, stupid, comatose creatures,—lifted from bed to
bed, from the nothing of life to the nothing of death.

In this kingdom of illusions we grope eagerly for stays and foundations.
There is none but a strict and faithful dealing at home, and a severe
barring out of all duplicity or illusion there.  Whatever games are
played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our
privacy with the last honesty and truth.  I look upon the simple and
childish virtues of veracity and honesty as the root of all that is
sublime in character.  Speak as you think, be what you are, pay your
debts of all kinds. I prefer to be owned as sound and solvent, and my
word as good as my bond, and to be what cannot be skipped, or
dissipated, or undermined, to all the _éclat_ in the universe.  This
reality is the foundation of friendship, religion, poetry, and art.  At
the top or at the bottom of all illusions, I set the cheat which still
leads us to work and live for appearances, in spite of our conviction,
in all sane hours, that it is what we really are that avails with
friends, with strangers, and with fate or fortune.

One would think from the talk of men, that riches and poverty were a
great matter; and our civilization mainly respects it.  But the Indians
say, that they do not think the white man with his brow of care, always
toiling, afraid of heat and cold, and keeping within doors, has any
advantage of them. The permanent interest of every man is, never to be
in a false position, but to have the weight of Nature to back him in all
that he does.  Riches and poverty are a thick or thin costume; and our
life—the life of all of us—identical.  For we transcend the circumstance
continually, and taste the real quality of existence; as in our
employments, which only differ in the manipulations, but express the
same laws; or in our thoughts, which wear no silks, and taste no
ice-creams.  We see God face to face every hour, and know the savor of

The early Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Xenophanes measured their
force on this problem of identity.  Diogenes of Apollonia said, that
unless the atoms were made of one stuff, they could never blend and act
with one another.  But the Hindoos, in their sacred writings, express
the liveliest feeling, both of the essential identity, and of that
illusion which they conceive variety to be "The notions, ’_I am_,’ and
’_This is mine_,’ which influence mankind, are but delusions of the
mother of the world.  Dispel, O Lord of all creatures! the conceit of
knowledge which proceeds from ignorance."  And the beatitude of man they
hold to lie in being freed from fascination.

The intellect is stimulated by the statement of truth in a trope, and
the will by clothing the laws of life in illusions.  But the unities of
Truth and of Right are not broken by the disguise.  There need never be
any confusion in these.  In a crowded life of many parts and performers,
on a stage of nations, or in the obscurest hamlet in Maine or
California, the same elements offer the same choices to each new comer,
and, according to his election, he fixes his fortune in absolute Nature.
It would be hard to put more mental and moral philosophy than the
Persians have thrown into a sentence:—

    "Fooled thou must be, though wisest of the wise:
    Then be the fool of virtue, not of vice."

There is no chance, and no anarchy, in the universe.  All is system and
gradation.  Every god is there sitting in his sphere.  The young mortal
enters the hall of the firmament: there is he alone with them alone,
they pouring on him benedictions and gifts, and beckoning him up to
their thrones. On the instant, and incessantly, fall snow-storms of
illusions.  He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and
that, and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself
poor, orphaned, insignificant.  The mad crowd drives hither and thither,
now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that.  What is he
that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself?  Every
moment, new changes, and new showers of deceptions, to baffle and
distract him.  And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and
the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on
their thrones,—they alone with him alone.

                                THE END.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Conduct of Life" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.