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Title: The Pocket R.L.S.: Being Favourite Passages from the Works of Stevenson
Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis
Language: English
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THE POCKET R. L. S.

Being favourite passages from the works of Stevenson.


By Robert Louis Stevenson



SELECTED PASSAGES

When you have read, you carry away with you a memory of the man himself;
it is as though you had touched a loyal hand, looked into brave eyes,
and made a noble friend; there is another bond on you thenceforward,
binding you to life and to the love of virtue.

*****

It is to some more specific memory that youth looks forward in its
vigils. Old kings are sometimes disinterred in all the emphasis of life,
the hands untainted by decay, the beard that had so often wagged in camp
or senate still spread upon the royal bosom; and in busts and pictures,
some similitude of the great and beautiful of former days is handed
down. In this way, public curiosity may be gratified, but hardly any
private aspiration after fame. It is not likely that posterity will fall
in love with us, but not impossible that it may respect or sympathise;
and so a man would rather leave behind him the portrait of his spirit
than a portrait of his face, FIGURA ANIMI MAGIS QUAM CORPORIS.

*****

The pleasure that we take in beautiful nature is essentially capricious.
It comes sometimes when we least look for it; and sometimes, when
we expect it most certainly, it leaves us to gape joylessly for days
together, in the very homeland of the beautiful. We may have passed a
place a thousand times and one; and on the thousand and second it will
be transfigured, and stand forth in a certain splendour of reality from
the dull circle of surroundings; so that we see it ‘with a child’s first
pleasure,’ as Wordsworth saw the daffodils by the lake-side.

*****

But every one sees the world in his own way. To some the glad moment may
have arrived on other provocations; and their recollection may be most
vivid of the stately gait of women carrying burthens on their heads; of
tropical effect, with caves and naked rock and sunlight; of the relief
of cypresses; of the troubled, busy-looking groups of sea-pines, that
seem always as if they were being wielded and swept together by a
whirlwind; of the air coming, laden with virginal perfumes, over the
myrtles and the scented underwoods; of the empurpled hills standing
up, solemn and sharp, out of the green-gold air of the east at evening.
There go many elements, without doubt, to the making of one such moment
of intense perception; and it is on the happy agreement of these many
elements, on the harmonious vibration of many nerves, that the whole
delight of the moment must depend.

*****

You should have heard him speak of what he loved; of the tent pitched
beside the talking water; of the stars overhead at night; of the blest
return of morning, the peep of day over the moors, the awaking birds
among the birches; how he abhorred the long winter shut in cities; and
with what delight, at the return of the spring, he once more pitched his
camp in the living out-of-doors.

*****

It was one of the best things I got from my education as an engineer:
of which, however, as a way of life, I wish to speak with sympathy. It
takes a man into the open air; it keeps him hanging about harbour-sides,
which is the richest form of idling; it carries him to wild islands; it
gives him a taste of the genial dangers of the sea; it supplies him with
dexterities to exercise; it makes demands upon his ingenuity; it will go
far to cure him of any taste (if ever he had one) for the miserable life
of cities. And when it has done so, it carries him back and shuts him
in an office! From the roaring skerry and the wet thwart of the tossing
boat, he passes to the stool and desk; and with a memory full of ships,
and seas, and perilous headlands, and the shining Pharos, he must apply
his long-sighted eyes to the pretty niceties of drawing, or measure his
inaccurate mind with several pages of consecutive figures. He is a wise
youth, to be sure, who can balance one part of genuine life against
two parts of drudgery between four walls, and for the sake of the one,
manfully accept the other.

*****

No one knows the stars who has not slept, as the French happily put
it, A LA BELLE ETOILE. He may know all their names and distances and
magnitudes, and yet be ignorant of what alone concerns mankind,--their
serene and gladsome influence on the mind. The greater part of poetry
is about the stars; and very justly, for they are themselves the most
classical of poets.

*****

He surprised himself by a sudden impulse to write poetry--he did so
sometimes, loose, galloping octosyllabics in the vein of Scott--and when
he had taken his place on a boulder, near some fairy falls, and shaded
by a whip of a tree that was already radiant with new leaves, it still
more surprised him that he should find nothing to write. His heart
perhaps beat in time to some vast indwelling rhythm of the universe.

*****

No man can find out the world, says Solomon, from beginning to end,
because the world is in his heart; and so it is impossible for any of
us to understand, from beginning to end, that agreement of harmonious
circumstances that creates in us the highest pleasure of admiration,
precisely because some of these circumstances are hidden from us for
ever in the constitution of our own bodies. After we have reckoned up
all that we can see or hear or feel, there still remains to be taken
into account some sensibility more delicate than usual in the nerves
affected, or some exquisite refinement in the architecture of the brain,
which is indeed to the sense of the beautiful as the eye or the ear
to the sense of hearing or sight. We admire splendid views and great
pictures; and yet what is truly admirable is rather the mind within
us, that gathers together these scattered details for its delight, and
snakes out of certain colours, certain distributions of graduated light
and darkness, that intelligible whole which alone we call a picture or
a view. Hazlitt, relating in one of his essays how he went on foot from
one great man’s house to another’s in search of works of art, begins
suddenly to triumph over these noble and wealthy owners, because he
was more capable of enjoying their costly possessions than they were;
because they had paid the money and he had received the pleasure. And
the occasion is a fair one for self-complacency. While the one man was
working to be able to buy the picture, the other was working to be able
to enjoy the picture. An inherited aptitude will have been diligently
improved in either case; only the one man has made for himself a
fortune, and the other has made for himself a living spirit. It is a
fair occasion for self-complacency, I repeat, when the event shows a man
to have chosen the better part, and laid out his life more wisely, in
the long-run, than those who have credit for most wisdom. And yet even
this is not a good unmixed; and like all other possessions, although in
a less degree, the possession of a brain that has been thus improved and
cultivated, and made into the prime organ of a man’s enjoyment, brings
with it certain inevitable cares and disappointments. The happiness of
such an one comes to depend greatly upon those fine shades of sensation
that heighten and harmonise the coarser elements of beauty. And thus
a degree of nervous prostration, that to other men would be hardly
disagreeable, is enough to overthrow for him the whole fabric of his
life, to take, except at rare moments, the edge off his pleasures, and
to meet him wherever he goes with failure, and the sense of want, and
disenchantment of the world and life.

*****

THE VAGABOND

(TO AN AIR OF SCHUBERT)

     Give to me the life I love,
          Let the lave go by me,
     Give the jolly heaven above
          And the byway nigh me.

     Bed in the bush with stars to see,
          Bread I dip in the river--
     There’s the life for a man like me,
          There’s the life for ever.

     Let the blow fall soon or late,
          Let what will be o’er me;
     Give the face of earth around,
          And the road before me.

     Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
          Nor a friend to know me;
     All I ask, the heaven above
          And the road below me.

*****

Every one who has been upon a walking or a boating tour, living in the
open air, with the body in constant exercise and the mind in fallow,
knows true ease and quiet. The irritating action of the brain is set
at rest; we think in a plain, unfeverish temper; little things seem
big enough, and great things no longer portentous; and the world is
smilingly accepted as it is.

*****

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for
travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and
hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of
civilisation, and find the globe granite under foot and strewn with
cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied
with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To
hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north
is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the
mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about
the future?

*****

A SONG OF THE ROAD

     The gauger walked with willing foot,
     And aye the gauger played the flute:
     And what should Master Gauger play
     But OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY?

     Whene’er I buckle on my pack
     And foot it gaily in the track,
     O pleasant gauger, long since dead,
     I hear you fluting on ahead.

     You go with me the selfsame way--
     The selfsame air for me you play;
     For I do think and so do you
     It is the tune to travel to.

     For who would gravely set his face
     To go to this or t’other place?
     There’s nothing under Heav’n so blue
     That’s fairly worth the travelling to.

     On every hand the roads begin,
     And people walk with zeal therein;
     But wheresoe’er the highways tend,
     Be sure there’s nothing at the end.

     Then follow you, wherever hie
     The travelling mountains of the sky.
     Or let the streams in civil mode
     Direct your choice upon a road;

     For one and all, or high or low,
     Will lead you where you wish to go;
     And one and all go night and day
     OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY!

*****

A walking tour should be gone upon alone, because freedom is of the
essence; because you should be able to stop and go on, and follow this
way or that, as the freak takes you; and because you must have your own
pace, and neither trot alongside a champion walker, nor mince in time
with a girl. And then you must be open to all impressions and let your
thoughts take colour from what you see. You should be as a pipe for any
wind to play upon.

*****

It must not be imagined that a walking tour, as some would have us
fancy, is merely a better or worse way of seeing the country. There are
many ways of seeing landscape quite as good; and none more vivid, in
spite of canting dilettantes, than from a railway train. But landscape
on a walking tour is quite accessory. He who is indeed of the
brotherhood does not voyage in quest of the picturesque, but of certain
jolly humours--of the hope and spirit with which the march begins at
morning, and the peace and spiritual repletion of the evening’s rest. He
cannot tell whether he puts his knapsack on, or takes it off, with more
delight. The excitement of the departure puts him in key for that of the
arrival. Whatever he does is not only a reward in itself, but will be
further rewarded in the sequel; and so pleasure leads on to pleasure in
an endless chain.

*****

Nor does the scenery any more affect the thoughts than the thoughts
affect the scenery. We see places through our humours as through
differently-coloured glasses. We are ourselves a term in the equation, a
note of the chord, and make discord or harmony almost at will. There is
no fear for the result, if we can but surrender ourselves sufficiently
to the country that surrounds and follows us, so that we are ever
thinking suitable thoughts or telling ourselves some suitable sort of
story as we go. We become thus, in some sense, a centre of beauty; we
are provocative of beauty, much as a gentle and sincere character is
provocative of sincerity and gentleness in others.

*****

There is nobody under thirty so dead but his heart will stir a little
at sight of a gypsies’ camp. ‘We are not cotton-spinners all;’ or, at
least, not all through. There is some life in humanity yet; and youth
will now and again find a brave word to say in dispraise of riches, and
throw up a situation to go strolling with a knapsack.

*****

I began my little pilgrimage in the most enviable of all humours: that
in which a person, with a sufficiency of money and a knapsack, turns his
back on a town and walks forward into a country of which he knows only
by the vague report of others. Such an one has not surrendered his will
and contracted for the next hundred miles, like a man on a railway. He
may change his mind at every finger-post, and, where ways meet, follow
vague preferences freely and go the low road or the high, choose the
shadow or the sunshine, suffer himself to be tempted by the lane that
turns immediately into the woods, or the broad road that lies open
before him into the distance, and shows him the far-off spires of some
city, or a range of mountain-tops, or a run of sea, perhaps, along a low
horizon. In short, he may gratify his every whim and fancy, without a
pang of reposing conscience, or the least jostle of his self-respect.
It is true, however, that most men do not possess the faculty of free
action, the priceless gift of being able to live for the moment only;
and as they begin to go forward on their journey, they will find that
they have made for themselves new fetters. Slight projects they may have
entertained for a moment, half in jest, become iron laws to them, they
know not why. They will be led by the nose by these vague reports of
which I spoke above; and the mere fact that their informant mentioned
one village and not another will compel their footsteps with
inexplicable power. And yet a little while, yet a few days of this
fictitious liberty, and they will begin to hear imperious voices calling
on them to return; and some passion, some duty, some worthy or unworthy
expectation, will set its hand upon their shoulder and lead them back
into the old paths. Once and again we have all made the experiment. We
know the end of it right well. And yet if we make it for the hundredth
time to-morrow, it will have the same charm as ever; our hearts will
beat and our eyes will be bright, as we leave the town behind us, and
we shall feel once again (as we have felt so often before) that we are
cutting ourselves loose for ever from our whole past life, with all its
sins and follies and circumscriptions, and go forward as a new creature
into a new world.

*****

Herein, I think, lies the chief attraction of railway travel. The speed
is so easy, and the train disturbs so little the scenes through which it
takes us, that our heart becomes full of the placidity and stillness of
the country; and while the body is borne forward in the flying chain
of carriages, the thoughts alight, as the humour moves them, at
unfrequented stations; they make haste up the poplar alley that leads
towards town; they are left behind with the signalman as, shading his
eyes with his hand, he watches the long train sweep away into the golden
distance.

*****

Now, there is no time when business habits are more mitigated than on a
walking tour. And so during these halts, as I say, you will feel almost
free. ... If the evening be fine and warm, there is nothing better in
life than to lounge before the inn door in the sunset, or lean over the
parapet of the bridge, to watch the weeds and the quick fishes. It is
then, if ever, that you taste joviality to the full significance of that
audacious word. Your muscles are so agreeably slack, you feel so clean
and so strong and so idle, that whether you move or sit still, whatever
you do is done with pride and a kingly sort of pleasure. You fall in
talk with any one, wise or foolish, drunk or sober. And it seems as if
a hot walk purged you, more than of anything else, of all narrowness and
pride, and left curiosity to play its part freely, as in a child or a
man of science. You lay aside all your own hobbies to watch provincial
humours develop themselves before you, now as a laughable farce, and now
grave and beautiful like an old tale.

*****

It is almost as if the millennium were arrived, when we shall throw our
clocks and watches over the housetops, and remember time and seasons no
more. Not to keep hours for a lifetime is, I was going to say, to live
for ever. You have no idea, unless you have tried it, how endlessly long
is a summer’s day that you measure out only by hunger, and bring to an
end only when you are drowsy.

*****

I know a village where there are hardly any clocks, where no one knows
more of the days of the week than by a sort of instinct for the fete on
Sundays, and where only one person can tell you the day of the month,
and she is generally wrong; and if people were aware how slow Time
journeyed in that village, and what armfuls of spare hours he gives,
over and above the bargain, to its wise inhabitants, I believe there
would be a stampede out of London, Liverpool, Paris, and a variety of
large towns, where the clocks lose their heads, and shake the hours out
each one faster than the other, as though they were all in a wager. And
all these foolish pilgrims would each bring his own misery along with
him, in a watch-pocket!

*****

     The bed was made, the room was fit,
          By punctual eve the stars were lit;
     The air was still, the water ran;
          No need there was for maid or man,
          When we put us, my ass and I,
     At God’s green caravanserai.

*****

To wash in one of God’s rivers in the open air seems to me a sort of
cheerful solemnity or semi-pagan act of worship. To dabble among dishes
in a bedroom may perhaps make clean the body; but the imagination takes
no share in such a cleansing.

*****

I own I like definite form in what my eyes are to rest upon; and if
landscapes were sold, like the sheets of characters of my boyhood, one
penny plain and twopence coloured, I should go the length of twopence
every day of my life.

*****

There should be some myth (but if there is, I know it not) founded on
the shivering of the reeds. There are not many things in nature more
striking to man’s eye. It is such an eloquent pantomime of terror; and
to see such a number of terrified creatures taking sanctuary in every
nook along the shore is enough to infect a silly human with alarm.
Perhaps they are only a-cold, and no wonder, standing waist deep in the
stream. Or, perhaps, they have never got accustomed to the speed and
fury of the river’s flux, or the miracle of its continuous body. Pan
once played upon their forefathers; and so, by the hands of his river,
he still plays upon these later generations down all the valley of the
Oise; and plays the same air, both sweet and shrill, to tell us of the
beauty and the terror of the world.

The reeds might nod their heads in warning, and with tremulous gestures
tell how the river was as cruel as it was strong and cold, and how death
lurked in the eddy underneath the willows. But the reeds had to stand
where they were; and those who stand still are always timid advisers.

*****

The wholeday was showery, with occasional drenching plumps. We were
soaked to the skin, then partially dried in the sun, then soaked once
more. But there were some calm intervals, and one notably, when we were
skirting the forest of Mormal, a sinister name to the ear, but a
place most gratifying to sight and smell. It looked solemn along the
riverside, drooping its boughs into the water, and piling them up aloft
into a wall of leaves. What is a forest but a city of nature’s own, full
of hardy and innocuous living things, where there is nothing dead and
nothing made with the hands, but the citizens themselves are the houses
and public monuments? There is nothing so much alive and yet so quiet
as a woodland; and a pair of people, swinging past in canoes, feel very
small and bustling by comparison.

I wish our way had always lain among woods. Trees are the most civil
society. An old oak that has been growing where he stands since before
the Reformation, taller than many spires, more stately than the greater
part of mountains, and yet a living thing, liable to sicknesses and
death, like you and me: is not that in itself a speaking lesson in
history? But acres on acres full of such patriarchs contiguously
rooted, their green tops billowing in the wind, their stalwart
younglings pushing up about their knees; a whole forest, healthy and
beautiful, giving colour to the light, giving perfume to the air; what
is this but the most imposing piece in nature’s repertory?

*****

But indeed it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a
claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of
the air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes
and renews a weary spirit.

*****

With all this in mind, I have often been tempted to put forth the
paradox that any place is good enough to live a life in, while it is
only in a few, and those highly favoured, that we can pass a few hours
agreeably. For, if we only stay long enough, we become at home in
the neighbourhood. Reminiscences spring up, like flowers, about
uninteresting corners. We forget to some degree the superior loveliness
of other places, and fall into a tolerant and sympathetic spirit which
is its own reward and justification.

*****

For when we are put down in some unsightly neighbourhood, and especially
if we have come to be more or less dependent on what we see, we must set
ourselves to hunt out beautiful things with all the ardour and patience
of a botanist after a rare plant. Day by day we perfect ourselves in
the art of seeing nature more favourably. We learn to live with her, as
people learn to live with fretful or violent spouses: we dwell lovingly
on what is good, and shut our eyes against all that is bleak or
inharmonious. We learn, also, to come to each place in the right spirit.
The traveller, as Brantome quaintly tells us, ‘fait des discours en soi
pour se soutenir en chemin.’

*****

There is no end, indeed, to making books or experiments, or to travel,
or to gathering wealth. Problem gives rise to problem. We may study
for ever, and we are never as learned as we would. We have never made a
statue worthy of our dreams. And when we have discovered a continent,
or crossed a chain of mountains, it is only to find another ocean or
another plain upon the farther side. In the infinite universe there is
room for our swiftest diligence and to spare. It is not like the works
of Carlyle, which can be read to an end. Even in a corner of it, in a
private park, or in the neighbourhood of a single hamlet, the weather
and the seasons keep so deftly changing that although we walk there for
a lifetime there will be always something to startle and delight us.

*****

It is in virtue of his own desires and curiosities that any man
continues to exist with even patience, that he is charmed by the look
of things and people, and that he wakens every morning with a renewed
appetite for work and pleasure. Desire and curiosity are the two eyes
through which he sees the world in the most enchanted colours: it is
they that make women beautiful or fossils interesting: and the man
may squander his estate and come to beggary, but if he keeps these two
amulets he is still rich in the possibilities of pleasure.

*****

To look on the happy side of nature is common, in their hours, to all
created things. Some are vocal under a good influence, are pleasing
whenever they are pleased, and hand on their happiness to others, as a
child who, looking upon lovely things, looks lovely. Some leap to the
strains with unapt foot, and make a halting figure in the universal
dance. And some, like sour spectators at the play, receive the music
into their hearts with an unmoved countenance, and walk like strangers
through the general rejoicing. But let him feign never so carefully,
there is not a man but has his pulses shaken when Pan trolls out a stave
of ecstasy and sets the world a-singing.

*****

Science writes of the world as if with the cold finger of a starfish;
it is all true; but what is it when compared to the reality of which
it discourses? where hearts beat high in April, and death strikes, and
hills totter in the earthquake, and there is a glamour over all the
objects of sight, and a thrill in all noises for the ear, and Romance
herself has made her dwelling among men? So we come back to the old
myth, and hear the goat-footed piper making the music which is itself
the charm and terror of things; and when a glen invites our visiting
footsteps, fancy that Pan leads us thither with a gracious tremolo; or
when our hearts quail at the thunder of the cataract, tell ourselves
that he has stamped his hoof in the nigh thicket.

*****

The Greeks figured Pan, the god of Nature, now terribly stamping his
foot, so that armies were dispersed; now by the woodside on a summer
noon trolling on his pipe until he charmed the hearts of upland
ploughmen. And the Greeks, in so figuring, uttered the last word of
human experience. To certain smoke-dried spirits matter and motion and
elastic ethers, and the hypothesis of this or that other spectacled
professor, tell a speaking story; but for youth and all ductile and
congenial minds, Pan is not dead, but of all the classic hierarchy alone
survives in triumph; goat-footed, with a gleeful and an angry look, the
type of the shaggy world: and in every wood, if you go with a spirit
properly prepared, you shall hear the note of his pipe.

*****

To leave home in early life is to be stunned and quickened with
novelties; but when years have come, it only casts a more endearing
light upon the past. As in those composite photographs of Mr. Galton’s,
the image of each new sitter brings out but the more clearly the central
features of the race; when once youth has flown, each new impression
only deepens the sense of nationality and the desire of native places.
So may some cadet of Royal Ecossais or the Albany Regiment, as he
mounted guard about French citadels, so may some officer marching his
company of the Scots-Dutch among the polders, have felt the soft rains
of the Hebrides upon his brow, or started in the ranks at the remembered
aroma of peat-smoke. And the rivers of home are dear in particular
to all men. This is as old as Naaman, who was jealous for Abana and
Pharpar; it is confined to no race nor country, for I know one of
Scottish blood but a child of Suffolk, whose fancy still lingers about
the hued lowland waters of that shire.

*****

THE COUNTRY OF THE CAMISARDS

     We travelled in the print of olden wars;
          Yet all the land was green;
          And love we found, and peace,
          Where fire and war had been.
     They pass and smile, the children of the sword--
          No more the sword they wield;
          And O, how deep the corn
          Along the battlefield!

*****

To reckon dangers too curiously, to hearken too intently for the threat
that runs through all the winning music of the world, to hold back the
hand from the rose because of the thorn, and from life because of death:
this it is to be afraid of Pan. Highly respectable citizens who flee
life’s pleasures and responsibilities and keep, with upright hat,
upon the midway of custom, avoiding the right hand and the left, the
ecstasies and the agonies, how surprised they would be if they could
hear their attitude mythologically expressed, and knew themselves as
tooth-chattering ones, who flee from Nature because they fear the hand
of Nature’s God!

*****

The spice of life is battle; the friendliest relations are still a kind
of contest; and if we would not forego all that is valuable in our lot,
we must continually face some other person, eye to eye, and wrestle a
fall whether in love or enmity. It is still by force of body, or power
of character or intellect, that we attain to worthy pleasures.

*****

Extreme BUSYNESS, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a
symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a
catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a
sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious
of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring
these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will
see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity;
they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not
take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and
unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand
still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they CANNOT be idle, their
nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of
coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill.

*****

If a person cannot be happy without remaining idle, idle he should
remain. It is a revolutionary precept; but thanks to hunger and the
workhouse, one not easily to be abused; and within practical limits, it
is one of the most incontestable truths in the whole Body of Morality.
Look at one of your industrious fellows for a moment, I beseech you. He
sows hurry and reaps indigestion; he puts a vast deal of activity out to
interest, and receives a large measure of nervous derangement in return.
Either he absents himself entirely from all fellowship, and lives a
recluse in a garret, with carpet slippers and a leaden inkpot; or he
comes among people swiftly and bitterly, in a contraction of his whole
nervous system, to discharge some temper before he returns to work. I do
not care how much or how well he works, this fellow is an evil feature
in other people’s lives. They would be happier if he were dead.

*****

‘We are all employed in commerce during the day; but in the evening,
VOYEZ-VOUS, NOUS SOMMES SERIEUX.’ These were the words. They were all
employed over the frivolous mercantile concerns of Belgium during the
day; but in the evening they found some hours for the serious concerns
of life. I may have a wrong idea of wisdom, but I think that was a very
wise remark. People connected with literature and philosophy are
busy all their days in getting rid of second-hand notions and false
standards. It is their profession, in the sweat of their brows,
by dogged thinking, to recover their old fresh view of life, and
distinguish what they really and originally like from what they have
only learned to tolerate perforce. And these Royal Nautical Sportsmen
had the distinction still quite legible in their hearts. They had still
those clean perceptions of what is nice and nasty, what is interesting
and what is dull, which envious old gentlemen refer to as illusions.
The nightmare illusion of middle age, the bear’s hug of custom gradually
squeezing the life out of a man’s soul, had not yet begun for these
happy-starr’d young Belgians. They still knew that the interest
they took in their business was a trifling affair compared to their
spontaneous, long-suffering affection for nautical sports. To know what
you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you
you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive. Such a man may be
generous; he may be honest in something more than the commercial sense;
he may love his friends with an elective, personal sympathy, and not
accept them as an adjunct of the station to which he has been called. He
may be a man, in short, acting on his own instincts, keeping in his
own shape that God made him in; and not a mere crank in the social
engine-house, welded on principles that he does not understand, and for
purposes that he does not care for.

*****

I suppose none of us recognise the great part that is played in life by
eating and drinking. The appetite is so imperious that we can stomach
the least interesting viands, and pass off a dinner hour thankfully
enough on bread and water; just as there are men who must read
something, if it were only ‘Bradshaw’s Guide.’ But there is a romance
about the matter, after all. Probably the table has more devotees than
love; and I am sure that food is much more generally entertaining than
scenery. Do you give in, as Walt Whitman would say, that you are any the
less immortal for that? The true materialism is to be ashamed of what
we are. To detect the flavour of an olive is no less a piece of human
perfection than to find beauty in the colours of the sunset.

*****

For the country people to see Edinburgh on her hill-tops, is one
thing; it is another for the citizen, from the thick of his affairs, to
overlook the country. It should be a genial and ameliorating influence
in life; it should prompt good thoughts and remind him of Nature’s
unconcern: that he can watch from day to day, as he trots officeward,
how the spring green brightens in the wood, or the field grows black
under a moving ploughshare. I have been tempted, in this connection, to
deplore the slender faculties of the human race, with its penny-whistle
of a voice, its dull ears, and its narrow range of sight. If you could
see as people are to see in heaven, if you had eyes such as you can
fancy for a superior race, if you could take clear note of the objects
of vision, not only a few yards, but a few miles from where you
stand:--think how agreeably your sight would be entertained, how
pleasantly your thoughts would be diversified, as you walk the Edinburgh
streets! For you might pause, in some business perplexity, in the midst
of the city traffic, and perhaps catch the eye of a shepherd as he sat
down to breathe upon a heathery shoulder of the Pentlands; or perhaps
some urchin, clambering in a country elm, would put aside the leaves and
show you his flushed and rustic visage; or as a fisher racing seaward,
with the tiller under his elbow, and the sail sounding in the wind,
would fling you a salutation from between Anst’er and the May.

*****

So you sit, like Jupiter on Olympus, and look down from afar upon men’s
life. The city is as silent as a city of the dead: from all its humming
thoroughfares, not a voice, not a footfall, reaches you upon the hill.
The sea-surf, the cries of plough-men, the streams and the mill-wheels,
the birds and the wind, keep up an animated concert through the plain;
from farm to farm, dogs and crowing cocks contend together in defiance;
and yet from this Olympian station, except for the whispering rumour of
a train, the world has fallen into a dead silence, and the business of
town and country grown voiceless in your ears. A crying hill-bird, the
bleat of a sheep, a wind singing in the dry grass, seem not so much to
interrupt, as to accompany, the stillness; but to the spiritual ear,
the whole scene makes a music at once human and rural, and discourses
pleasant reflections on the destiny of man. The spiry habitable
city, ships, the divided fields, and browsing herds, and the straight
highways, tell visibly of man’s active and comfortable ways; and you
may be never so laggard and never so unimpressionable, but there is
something in the view that spirits up your blood and puts you in the
vein for cheerful labour.

*****

The night, though we were so little past midsummer, was as dark as
January. Intervals of a groping twilight alternated with spells of utter
blackness; and it was impossible to trace the reason of these changes
in the flying horror of the sky. The wind blew the breath out of a man’s
nostrils; all heaven seemed to thunder overhead like one huge sail;
and when there fell a momentary lull on Aros, we could hear the gusts
dismally sweeping in the distance. Over all the lowlands of the Ross the
wind must have blown as fierce as on the open sea; and God only knows
the uproar that was raging around the head of Ben Kyaw. Sheets of
mingled spray and rain were driven in our faces. All round the isle
of Aros, the surf, with an incessant, hammering thunder, beat upon the
reefs and beaches. Now louder in one place, now lower in another, like
the combinations of orchestral music, the constant mass of sound was
hardly varied for a moment. And loud above all this hurly-burly I could
hear the changeful voices of the Roost and the intermittent roaring of
the Merry Men. At that hour there flashed into my mind the reason of
the name that they were called. For the noise of them seemed almost
mirthful, as it out-topped the other noises of the night; or if not
mirthful, yet instinct with a portentous joviality. Nay, and it seemed
even human. As when savage men have drunk away their reason, and,
discarding speech bawl together in their madness by the hour; so, to my
ears, these deadly breakers shouted by Aros in the night.

*****

I was walking one night in the verandah of a small house in which I
lived, outside the hamlet of Saranac. It was winter; the night was very
dark; the air extraordinary clear and cold, and sweet with the purity
of forests. From a good way below, the river was to be heard contending
with ice and boulders; a few lights, scattered unevenly among the
darkness, but so far away as not to lessen the sense of isolation. For
the making of a story here were fine conditions.

*****

On all this part of the coast, and especially near Aros, these great
granite rocks that I have spoken of go down together in troops into the
sea, like cattle on a summer’s day. There they stand, for all the world
like their neighbours ashore; only the salt water sobbing between them
instead of the quiet earth, and clots of sea-pink blooming on their
sides instead of heather; and the great sea-conger to wreathe about the
base of them instead of the poisonous viper of the land. On calm days
you can go wandering between them in a boat for hours, echoes following
you about the labyrinth; but when the sea is up, Heaven help the man
that hears that caldron boiling.

*****

It had snowed overnight. The fields were all sheeted up; they were
tucked in among the snow, and their shape was modelled through the
pliant counterpane, like children tucked in by a fond mother. The wind
had made ripples and folds upon the surface, like what the sea, in quiet
weather, leaves upon the sand. There was a frosty stifle in the air. An
effusion of coppery light on the summit of Brown Carrick showed where
the sun was trying to look through; but along the horizon clouds of cold
fog had settled down, so that there was no distinction of sky and sea.
Over the white shoulders of the headlands, or in the opening of bays,
there was nothing but a great vacancy and blackness; and the road as it
drew near the edge of the cliff, seemed to skirt the shores of creation
and void space.

*****

When we are looking at a landscape we think ourselves pleased; but it
is only when it comes back upon us by the fire o’ nights that we can
disentangle the main charm from the thick of particulars. It is just
so with what is lately past. It is too much loaded with detail to be
distinct; and the canvas is too large for the eye to encompass. But
this is no more the case when our recollections have been strained long
enough through the hour-glass of time; when they have been the burthen
of so much thought, the charm and comfort of so many a vigil. All that
is worthless has been sieved and sifted out of them. Nothing remains but
the brightest lights and the darkest shadows.

*****

Burns, too proud and honest not to work, continued through all reverses
to sing of poverty with a light, defiant note. Beranger waited till he
was himself beyond the reach of want before writing the OLD VAGABOND or
JACQUES. Samuel Johnson, although he was very sorry to be poor, ‘was a
great arguer for the advantages of poverty’ in his ill days. Thus it is
that brave men carry their crosses, and smile with the fox burrowing in
their vitals.

*****

Now, what I like so much in France is the clear, unflinching recognition
by everybody of his own luck. They all know on which side their bread is
buttered, and take a pleasure in showing it to others, which is surely
the better part of religion. And they scorn to make a poor mouth over
their poverty, which I take to be the better part of manliness.

*****

If people knew what an inspiriting thing it is to hear a man boasting,
so long as he boasts of what he really has, I believe they would do it
more freely and with a better grace.

*****

A girl at school in France began to describe one of our regiments on
parade to her French school-mates, and as she went on she told me the
recollection grew so vivid, she became so proud to be the countrywoman
of such soldiers, and so sorry to be in another country, that her voice
failed her and she burst into tears. I have never forgotten that girl,
and I think she very nearly deserves a statue. To call her a young lady,
with all its many associations, would be to offer her an insult. She
may rest assured of one thing, although she never should marry a heroic
general, never see any great or immediate result of her life, she will
not have lived in vain for her native land.

*****

As I went, I was thinking of Smethurst with admiration; a look into that
man’s mind was like a retrospect over the smiling champaign of his past
life, and very different from the Sinai-gorges up which one looks for a
terrified moment into the dark souls of many good, many wise, and many
prudent men. I cannot be very grateful to such men for their excellence,
and wisdom, and prudence. I find myself facing as stoutly as I can
a hard, combative existence, full of doubt, difficulties, defeats,
disappointments, and dangers, quite a hard enough life without their
dark countenances at my elbow, so that what I want is a happy-minded
Smethurst placed here and there at ugly corners of my life’s wayside,
preaching his gospel of quiet and contentment.

*****

There is a certain critic, not indeed of execution but of matter, whom
I dare be known to set before the best: a certain low-browed, hairy
gentleman, at first a percher in the fork of trees, next (as they
relate) a dweller in caves, and whom I think I see squatting in
cave-mouths, of a pleasant afternoon, to munch his berries--his wife,
that accomplished lady, squatting by his side: his name I never heard,
but he is often described as Probably Arboreal, which may serve for
recognition. Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all
sits Probably Arboreal; in all our veins there run some minims of his
old, wild, tree-top blood; our civilised nerves still tingle with his
rude terrors and pleasures; and to that which would have moved our
common ancestors, all must obediently thrill.

*****

This is an age when genealogy has taken a new lease of life, and become
for the first time a human science; so that we no longer study it in
quest of the Guaith Voeths, but to trace out some of the secrets of
descent and destiny; and as we study, we think less of Sir Bernard Burke
and more of Mr. Galton. Not only do our character and talents lie upon
the anvil and receive their temper during generations; but the very
plot of our life’s story unfolds itself on a scale of centuries, and the
biography of the man is only an episode in the epic of the family.

*****

But our ancestral adventures are beyond even the arithmetic of fancy;
and it is the chief recommendation of long pedigrees, that we can follow
backward the careers of our HOMUNCULUS and be reminded of our antenatal
lives. Our conscious years are but a moment in the history of the
elements that build us.

*****

What is mine, then, and what am I? If not a curve in this poor body of
mine (which you love, and for the sake of which you dotingly dream that
you love me), not a gesture that I can frame, not a tone of my voice,
not a look from my eyes, no, not even now when I speak to him I love,
but has belonged to others? Others, ages dead, have wooed other men with
my eyes; other men have heard the pleadings of the same voice that now
sounds in your ears. The hands of the dead are in my bosom; they move
me, they pluck me, they guide me; I am a puppet at their command; and
I but re-inform features and attributes that have long been laid aside
from evil in the quiet of the grave. Is it me you love, friend? or the
race that made me? The girl who does not know and cannot answer for the
least portion of herself? or the stream of which she is a transitory
eddy, the tree of which she is the passing fruit? The race exists; it is
old, it is ever young, it carries its eternal destiny in its bosom; upon
it, like waves upon the sea, individual succeeds individual, mocked with
a semblance of self-control, but they are nothing. We speak of the soul,
but the soul is in the race.

*****

The future is nothing; but the past is myself, my own history, the seed
of my present thoughts, the mould of my present disposition. It is not
in vain that I return to the nothings of my childhood; for every one
of them has left some stamp upon me or put some fetter on my boasted
free-will. In the past is my present fate; and in the past also is my
real life.

*****

For as the race of man, after centuries of civilisation, still keeps
some traits of their barbarian fathers, so man the individual is not
altogether quit of youth, when he is already old and honoured, and Lord
Chancellor of England. We advance in years somewhat in the manner of
an invading army in a barren land; the age that we have reached, as
the phrase goes, we but hold with an outpost, and still keep open our
communications with the extreme rear and first beginnings of the
march. There is our true base; that is not only the beginning, but the
perennial spring of our faculties; and grandfather William can retire
upon occasion into the green enchanted forest of his boyhood.

*****

The regret we have for our childhood is not wholly justifiable: so much
a man may lay down without fear of public ribaldry; for although we
shake our heads over the change, we are not unconscious of the manifold
advantages of our new state. What we lose in generous impulse we more
than gain in the habit of generously watching others; and the capacity
to enjoy Shakespeare may balance a lost appetite for playing at
soldiers.

*****

If a man lives to any considerable age, it cannot be denied that he
laments his imprudences, but I notice he often laments his youth a deal
more bitterly and with a more genuine intonation.

*****

There is something irreverent in the speculation, but perhaps the want
of power has more to do with wise resolutions of age than we are always
willing to admit.

*****

People may lay down their lives with cheerfulness in the sure
expectation of a blessed immortality; but that is a different affair
from giving up youth, with all its admirable pleasures, in the hope of
a better quality of gruel in a more than problematical, nay, more than
improbable, old age.

*****

Childhood must pass away, and then youth, as surely as, age approaches.
The true wisdom is to be always seasonable, and to change with a good
grace in changing circumstances. To love playthings well as a child, to
lead an adventurous and honourable youth, and to settle when the time
arrives, into a green and smiling age, is to be a good artist in life
and deserve well of yourself and your neighbour.

*****

Age asks with timidity to be spared intolerable pain; youth, taking
fortune by the beard, demands joy like a right.

*****

It is not possible to keep the mind in a state of accurate balance and
blank; and even if you could do so, instead of coming ultimately to the
right conclusion, you would be very apt to remain in a state of balance
and blank to perpetuity. Even in quite intermediate stages, a dash of
enthusiasm is not a thing to be ashamed of in the retrospect: if St.
Paul had not been a very zealous Pharisee, he would have been a colder
Christian. For my part, I look back to the time when I was a Socialist
with something like regret. I have convinced myself (for the moment)
that we had better leave these great changes to what we call blind
forces; their blindness being so much more perspicacious than the
little, peering, partial eyesight of men. I seem to see that my
own scheme would not answer; and all the other schemes I ever heard
propounded would depress some elements of goodness just as much as they
encouraged others. Now I know that in thus turning Conservative with
years, I am going through the normal cycle of change and travelling in
the common orbit of men’s opinions.

Those who go the devil in youth, with anything like a fair chance, were
probably little worth saving from the first; they must have been feeble
fellows--creatures made of putty and pack-thread, without steel or fire,
anger or true joyfulness, in their composition; we may sympathise with
their parents, but there is not much cause to go into mourning for
themselves; for to be quite honest, the weak brother is the worst of
mankind.

*****

The follies of youth have a basis in sound reason, just as much as
the embarrassing questions put by babes and sucklings. Their most
anti-social acts indicate the defects of our society. When the torrent
sweeps the man against a boulder, you must expect him to scream, and you
need not be surprised if the scream is sometimes a theory. ... But it
is better to be a fool than to be dead. It is better to emit a scream
in the shape of a theory than to be entirely insensible to the jars
and incongruities of life and take everything as it comes in a forlorn
stupidity. Some people swallow the universe like a pill; they travel
on through the world, like smiling images pushed from behind. For God’s
sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of
himself! As for the others, the irony of facts shall take it out of
their hands, and make fools of them in downright earnest, ere the farce
be over. There shall be such a mopping and a mowing at the last day, and
such blushing and confusion of countenance for all those who have been
wise in their own esteem, and have not learnt the rough lessons that
youth hands on to age. If we are indeed here to perfect and complete
our own natures, and grow larger, stronger, and more sympathetic against
some nobler career in the future, we had all best bestir ourselves to
the utmost while we have the time. To equip a dull, respectable person
with wings would be but to make a parody of an angel.

*****

Had he but talked--talked freely--let himself gush out in words (the way
youth loves to do, and should) there might have been no tale to write
upon the Weirs of Hermiston.

*****

A young man feels himself one too many in the world; his is a painful
situation; he has no calling; no obvious utility; no ties but to his
parents, and these he is sure to disregard. I do not think that a proper
allowance has been made for this true cause of suffering in youth; but
by the mere fact of a prolonged existence, we outgrow either the fact
or else the feeling. Either we become so callously accustomed to our
own useless figure in the world, or else--and this, thank God, in the
majority of cases--we so collect about us the interest or the love of
our fellows, so multiply our effective part in the affairs of life, that
we need to entertain no longer the question of our right to be.

*****

It had been long his practice to prophesy for his second son a career of
ruin and disgrace. There is an advantage in this artless parental habit.
Doubtless the father is interested in his son; but doubtless also the
prophet grows to be interested in his prophecies. If the one goes wrong
the others come true.

*****

When the old man waggles his head and says, ‘Ah, so I thought when I
was your age,’ he has proved the youth’s case. Doubtless, whether from
growth of experience or decline of animal heat, he thinks so no longer;
but he thought so while he was young; and all men have thought so while
they were young, since there was dew in the morning or hawthorn in
May; and here is another young man adding his vote to those of previous
generations and riveting another link to the chain of testimony. It is
as natural and as right for a young man to be imprudent and exaggerated,
to live in swoops and circles, and beat about his cage like any other
wild thing newly captured, as it is for old men to turn grey, or mothers
to love their offspring, or heroes to die for something worthier than
their lives.

*****

Youth is the time to go flashing from one end of the world to the other
both in mind and body; to try the manners of different nations; to
hear the chimes at midnight; to see sunrise in town and country; to be
converted at a revival; to circumnavigate the metaphysics, write halting
verses, run a mile to see a fire, and wait all day long in the theatre
to applaud HERNANI. There is some meaning in the old theory about wild
oats; and a man who has not had his green-sickness and got done with it
for good is as little to be depended on as an unvaccinated infant.

*****

When we grow elderly, how the room brightens and begins to look as it
ought to look, on the entrance of youth, grace, health and comeliness!
You do not want them for yourself, perhaps not even for your son, but
you look on smiling; and when you recall their images--again it is
with a smile. I defy you to see or think of them and not smile with an
infinite and intimate but quite impersonal pleasure.

*****

To speak truth there must be moral equality or else no respect; and
hence between parent and child intercourse is apt to degenerate into a
verbal fencing-bout, and misapprehensions to become engrained. And there
is another side to this, for the parent begins with an imperfect
notion of the child’s character, formed in early years or during the
equinoctial gales of youth; to this he adheres, noting only the facts
which suit with his pre-conception; and wherever a person fancies
himself unjustly judged, he at once and finally gives up the effort to
speak truth.

*****

So, as we grow old, a sort of equable jog-trot of feeling is substituted
for the violent ups and downs of passion and disgust; the same influence
that restrains our hopes quiets our apprehensions; if the pleasures are
less intense, the troubles are milder and more tolerable; and in a word,
this period for which we are asked to hoard up everything as for a time
of famine, is, in its own right, the richest, easiest, and happiest
of life. Nay, by managing its own work and following its own happy
inspiration, youth is doing the best it can to endow the leisure of
age. A full, busy youth is your only prelude to a self-contained and
independent age; and the muff inevitably develops into a bore.

*****

To know what you like is the beginning of wisdom and of old age. Youth
is wholly experimental. The essence and charm of that unquiet and
delightful epoch is ignorance of self as well as ignorance of life.

*****

The schoolboy has a keen sense of humour. Heroes he learns to understand
and to admire in books; but he is not forward to recognise the heroic
under the traits of any contemporary.

*****

Discredited as they are in practice, the cowardly proverbs hold their
own in theory; and it is another instance of the same spirit, that the
opinions of old men about life have been accepted as final. All sorts
of allowances are made for the illusions of youth; and none, or almost
none, for the disenchantments of age. It is held to be a good taunt, and
somehow or other to clinch the question logically, when an old gentleman
waggles his head and says: ‘Ah, so I thought when I was your age.’ It
is not thought an answer at all, if the young man retorts: My venerable
sir, so I shall most probably think when I am yours.’ And yet the one
is as good as the other: pass for pass, tit for tat, a Roland for an
Oliver.

*****

What shall we be when we grow really old? Of yore, a man was thought to
lay on restrictions and acquire new deadweight of mournful experience
with every year, till he looked back on his youth as the very summer of
impulse and freedom.

*****

And it may be worth while to add that these clouds rolled away in their
season, and that all clouds roll away at last, and the troubles of youth
in particular are things but of a moment.

*****

Through what little channels, by what hints and premonitions, the
consciousness of the man’s art dawns first upon the child, it should be
not only interesting but instructive to inquire. A matter of curiosity
to-day, it will become the ground of science to-morrow. From the mind of
childhood there is more history and more philosophy to be fished up than
from all the printed volumes in a library.

*****

I could not finish THE PIRATE when I was a child, I have never finished
it yet; PEVERIL OF THE PEAK dropped half way through from my schoolboy
hands, and though I have since waded to an end in a kind of wager with
myself, the exercise was quite without enjoyment. There is something
disquieting in the considerations. I still think the visit to Ponto’s
the best part of the BOOK OF SNOBS: does that mean that I was right when
I was a child, or does it mean that I have never grown since then, that
the child is not the man’s father, but the man? and that I came into the
world with all my faculties complete, and have only learned sinsyne to
be more tolerant of boredom?

*****

The child thinks much in images, words are very live to him, phrases
that imply a picture eloquent beyond their value.

*****

Somehow my playmate had vanished, or is out of the story, as the sagas
say, but I was sent into the village on an errand; and, taking a book
of fairy tales, went down alone through a fir-wood, reading as I walked.
How often since then has it befallen me to be happy even so; but that
was the first time: the shock of that pleasure I have never since
forgot, and if my mind serves me to the last, I never shall; for it was
then I knew I loved reading.

*****

The remainder of my childish recollections are all of the matter that
was read to me, and not of any manner in the words. If these pleased me,
it was unconsciously; I listened for news of the great vacant world
upon whose edge I stood; I listened for delightful plots that I might
re-enact in play, and romantic scenes and circumstances that I might
call up before me, with closed eyes, when I was tired of Scotland, and
home, and that weary prison of the sick-chamber in which I lay so long
in durance.

*****

I rose and lifted a corner of the blind. Over the black belt of the
garden I saw the long line of Queen Street, with here and there a
lighted window. How often before had my nurse lifted me out of bed and
pointed them out to me, while we wondered together if, there also, there
were children that could not sleep, and if these lighted oblongs were
signs of those that waited like us for the morning.

*****

There never was a child but has hunted gold, and been a pirate, and a
military commander, and a bandit of the mountains; but has fought, and
suffered shipwreck and prison, and imbrued its little hands in gore,
and gallantly retrieved the lost battle, and triumphantly protected
innocence and beauty.

*****

None more than children are concerned for beauty, and, above all, for
beauty in the old.

*****

So in youth, like Moses from the mountain, we have sights of that
House Beautiful of art which we shall never enter. They are dreams
and unsubstantial; visions of style that repose upon no base of human
meaning; the last heart-throb of that excited amateur who has to die in
all of us before the artist can be born. But they come in such a rainbow
of glory that all subsequent achievement appears dull and earthly in
comparison. We are all artists; almost all in the age of illusion,
cultivating an imaginary genius, and walking to the strains of some
deceiving Ariel; small wonder, indeed, if we were happy! But art, of
whatever nature, is a kind of mistress; and though these dreams of
youth fall by their own baselessness, others succeed, grave and more
substantial; the symptoms change, the amiable malady endures; and still
at an equal distance, the House Beautiful shines upon its hill-top.

*****

Children, for instance, are able enough to see, but they have no great
faculty for looking; they do not use their eyes for the pleasure of
using them, but for by-ends of their own; and the things I call to
mind seeing most vividly were not beautiful in themselves, but merely
interesting or enviable to me, as I thought they might be turned to
practical account in play.

*****

The true parallel for play is not to be found, of course, in conscious
art, which, though it be derived from play, is itself an abstract,
impersonal thing, and depends largely upon philosophical interests
beyond the scope of childhood. It is when we make castles in the air and
personate the leading character in our own romances, that we return to
the spirit of our first years. Only, there are several reasons why the
spirit is no longer so agreeable to indulge. Nowadays, when we admit
this personal element into our divagations, we are apt to stir up
uncomfortable and sorrowful memories, and remind ourselves sharply of
old wounds..Alas! when we betake ourselves to our intellectual form of
play, sitting quietly by the fire or lying prone in bed, we rouse
many hot feelings for which we can find no outlet. Substitutes are not
acceptable to the mature mind, which desires the thing itself; and
even to rehearse a triumphant dialogue with one’s enemy, although it is
perhaps the most satisfactory piece of play still left within our reach,
is not entirely satisfying, and is even apt to lead to a visit and an
interview which may be the reverse of triumphant after all.

Whatever we are to expect at the hands of children, it should not be any
peddling exactitude about matters of fact. They walk in a vain show,
and among mists and rainbows; they are passionate after dreams and
unconcerned about realities; speech is a difficult art not wholly
learned; and there is nothing in their own tastes or purposes to
teach them what we mean by abstract truthfulness. When a bad writer is
inexact, even if he can look back on half a century of years, we charge
him with incompetence and not, with dishonesty. And why not extend the
same allowance to imperfect speakers? Let a stockbroker be dead stupid
about poetry, or a poet inexact in the details of business, and we
excuse them heartily from blame. But show us a miserable, unbreeched,
human entity, whose whole profession it is to take a tub for a fortified
town and a shaving-brush for the deadly stiletto, and who
passes three-fourths of his time in a dream and the rest in open
self-deception, and we expect him to be as nice upon a matter of fact
as a scientific expert bearing evidence. Upon my heart, I think it less
than decent: you do not consider how little the child sees, or how swift
he is to weave what he has seen into bewildering fiction; and that
he cares no more for what you call truth, than you for a gingerbread
dragoon. It would be easy to leave them in their native cloudland, where
they figure so prettily--pretty like flowers and innocent like dogs.
They will come out of their gardens soon enough, and have to go into
offices and the witness-box. Spare them yet a while, O conscientious
parent! Let them doze among their playthings yet a little! for who knows
what a rough, warfaring existence lies before them in the future?

*****

‘You are a friend of Archie Weir’s?’ said one to Frank Innes; and Innes
replied, with his usual flippancy and more than his usual insight: ‘I
know Weir, but I never met Archie.’ No one had met Archie, a malady most
incident to only sons. He flew his private signal, and none heeded it;
It seemed he was abroad in a world from which the very hope of intimacy
was banished; and he looked round about him on the concourse of his
fellow-students, and forward to the trivial days and acquaintances that
were to come, without hope or interest.

*****

‘My poor, dear boy!’ observed Glenalmond. ‘My poor, dear and, if you
will allow me to say so, very foolish boy! You are only discovering
where you are; to one of your temperament, or of mine, a painful
discovery. The world was not made for us; it was made for ten hundred
millions of me, all different from each other and from us; there’s no
royal road, we just have to sclamber and tumble.’

*****

Alas and alas! you may take it how you will, but the services of no
single individual are indispensable. Atlas was just a gentleman with
a protracted nightmare! And yet you see merchants who go and labour
themselves into a great fortune and thence into the bankruptcy court;
scribblers who keep scribbling at little articles until their temper
is a cross to all who come about them, as though Pharaoh should set the
Israelites to make a pin instead of a pyramid; and fine young men who
work themselves into a decline, and are driven off in a hearse with
white plumes upon it. Would you not suppose these persons had been
whispered, by the Master of the Ceremonies the promise of some momentous
destiny? and that this Lukewarm bullet on which they play their farces
was the bull’s-eye and centrepoint of all the universe? And yet it is
not so. The ends for which they give away their priceless youth, for
all they know, may be chimerical, or hurtful; the glory and riches they
expect may never come, or may find them indifferent; and they and the
world they inhabit are so inconsiderable that the mind freezes at the
thought.

*****

As we go catching and catching at this or that corner of knowledge,
now getting a foresight of generous possibilities, now chilled with a
glimpse of prudence, we may compare the headlong course of our years to
a swift torrent in which a man is carried away; now he is dashed against
a boulder, now he grapples for a moment to a trailing spray; at the end,
he is hurled out and overwhelmed in a dark and bottomless ocean. We have
no more than glimpses and touches; we are torn away from our theories;
we are spun round and round and shown this or the other view of life,
until only fools or knaves can hold to their opinions.... All our
attributes are modified or changed; and it will be a poor account of us
if our views do not modify and change in a proportion. To hold the same
views at forty as we held at twenty is to have been stupefied for a
score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable
brat, well birched and none the wiser. It is as if a ship captain should
sail to India from the Port of London; and having brought a chart of the
Thames on deck at his first setting out, should obstinately use no other
for the whole voyage.

*****

It is good to have been young in youth and, as years go on, to grow
older. Many are already old before they are through their teens; but
to travel deliberately through one’s ages is to get the heart out of a
liberal education. Times change, opinions vary to their opposite, and
still this world appears a brave gymnasium, full of sea-bathing,
and horse exercise, and bracing, manly virtues; and what can be more
encouraging than to find the friend who was welcome at one age, still
welcome at another? Our affections and beliefs are wiser than we; the
best that is in us is better than we can understand; for it is grounded
beyond experience, and guides us, blindfold but safe, from one age on to
another.

*****

But faces have a trick of growing more and more spiritualised and
abstract in the memory, until nothing remains of them but a look, a
haunting expression; just that secret quality in a face that is apt to
slip out somehow under the cunningest painter’s touch, and leave the
portrait dead for the lack of it.

*****

Pitiful is the case of the blind, who cannot read the face; pitiful that
of the deaf who cannot follow the changes of the voice. And there are
others also to be pitied; for there are some of an inert, uneloquent
nature, who have been denied all the symbols of communication, who have
neither a lively play of facial expression, nor speaking gestures, nor a
responsive voice, nor yet the gift of frank, explanatory speech: people
truly made of clay, people tied for life into a bag which no one can
undo. They are poorer than the gipsy, for their heart can speak no
language under heaven.

*****

For my part, I can see few things more desirable, after the possession
of such radical qualities as honour and humour and pathos, than to have
a lively and not a stolid countenance; to have looks to correspond with
every feeling; to be elegant arid delightful in person, so that we shall
please even in the intervals of active pleasing, and may never discredit
speech with uncouth manners or become unconsciously our own burlesques.
But of all unfortunates there is one creature (for I will not call
him man) conspicuous in misfortune. This is he who has forfeited his
birthright of expression, who has cultivated artful intonations, who has
taught his face tricks, like a pet monkey, and on every side perverted
or cut off his means of communication with his fellow-men. The body is a
house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying
on the passersby to come and love us. But this fellow has filled his
windows with opaque glass, elegantly coloured. His house may be admired
for its design, the crowd may pause before the stained windows, but
meanwhile the poor proprietor must lie languishing within, uncomforted,
unchangeably alone.

*****

The lads go forth pricked with the spirit of adventure and the desire
to rise in Life, and leave their homespun elders grumbling and wondering
over the event. Once, at a village called Lausanne, I met one of these
disappointed parents: a drake who had fathered a wild swan and seen it
take wing and disappear. The wild swan in question was now an apothecary
in Brazil. He had flown by way of Bordeaux, and first landed in America,
bare-headed and bare-footed, and with a single halfpenny in his pocket.
And now he was an apothecary! Such a wonderful thing is an adventurous
life! I thought he might as well have stayed at home; but you never can
tell wherein a man’s life consists, nor in what he sets his pleasure:
one to drink, another to marry, a third to write scurrilous articles and
be repeatedly caned in public, and now this fourth, perhaps, to be an
apothecary in Brazil. As for his old father, he could conceive no reason
for the lad’s behaviour. ‘I had always bread for him,’ he said; ‘he ran
away to annoy me. He loved to annoy me. He had no gratitude.’ But at
heart he was swelling with pride over his travelled offspring, and he
produced a letter out of his pocket, where, as he said, it was rotting,
a mere lump of paper rags, and waved it gloriously in the air. ‘This
comes from America,’ he cried, ‘six thousand leagues away!’ And the
wine-shop audience looked upon it with a certain thrill.

*****

The fame of other lands had reached them; the name of the eternal
city rang in their ears; they were not colonists, but pilgrims; they
travelled towards wine and gold and sunshine, but their hearts were set
on something higher. That divine unrest, that old stinging trouble of
humanity that makes all high achievements and all miserable failures,
the same that spread wings with Icarus, the same that sent Columbus into
the desolate Atlantic, inspired and supported these barbarians on their
perilous march.

*****

There is more adventure in the life of the working man who descends as a
common soldier into the battle of life, than in that of the millionaire
who sits apart in an office, like Von Moltke, and only directs the
manoeuvres by telegraph. Give me to hear about the career of him who
is in the thick of the business; to whom one change of market means an
empty belly, and another a copious and savoury meal. This is not the
philosophical, but the human side of economics; it interests like a
story; and the life of all who are thus situated partakes in a small way
of the charm of Robinson Crusoe; for every step is critical, and human
life is presented to you naked and verging to its lowest terms.

*****

An aspiration is a joy for ever, a possession as solid as a landed
estate, a fortune which we can never exhaust and which gives us year by
year a revenue of pleasurable activity. To have many of these is to be
spiritually rich.

*****

To be wholly devoted to some intellectual exercise is to have succeeded
in life; and perhaps only in law and the higher mathematics may this
devotion be maintained, suffice to itself without reaction, and find
continual rewards without excitement.

*****

Study and experiment, to some rare natures, is the unbroken pastime of
a life. These are enviable natures; people shut in the house by sickness
often bitterly envy them; but the commoner man cannot continue to exist
upon such altitudes: his feet itch for physical adventure; his blood
boils for physical dangers, pleasures, and triumphs; his fancy, the
looker after new things, cannot continue to look for them in books and
crucibles, but must seek them on the breathing stage of life.

*****

Life goes before us, infinite in complication; attended by the most
various and surprising meteors; appealing at once to the eye, to the
ear, to the mind--the seat of wonder, to the touch--so thrillingly
delicate, and to the belly--so imperious when starved. It combines and
employs in its manifestation the method and material, not of one art
only, but of all the arts. Music is but an arbitrary trifling with a few
of life’s majestic chords; painting is but a shadow of its pageantry
of light and colour; literature does but drily indicate that wealth
of incident, of moral obligation, of virtue, vice, action, rapture and
agony, with which it teems. To ‘compete with life,’ whose sun we cannot
look upon, whose passions and diseases waste and slay us--to compete
with the flavour of wine, the beauty of the dawn, the scorching of fire,
the bitterness of death and separation here is, indeed, a projected
escalade of heaven; here are, indeed, labours for a Hercules in a dress
coat, armed with a pen and a dictionary to depict the passions, armed
with a tube of superior flake-white to paint the portrait of the
insufferable sun. No art is true in this sense: none can ‘compete with
life’: not even history, built indeed of indisputable facts, but these
facts robbed of their vivacity and sting; so that even when we read
of the sack of a city or the fall of an empire, we are surprised, and
justly commend the author’s talent, if our pulse be quickened. And mark,
for a last differentia, that this quickening of the pulse is, in almost
every case, purely agreeable; that these phantom reproductions of
experience, even at their most acute, convey decided pleasure; while
experience itself, in the cockpit of life, can torture and slay.

*****

Into how many houses would not the note of the monastery bell, dividing
the day into manageable portions, bring peace of mind and healthful
activity of body! We speak of hardships, but the true hardship is to be
a dull fool, and permitted to mismanage life in our own dull and foolish
manner.

*****

But struggle as you please, a man has to work in this world. He must be
an honest man or a thief, Loudon.

*****

Industry is, in itself and when properly chosen, delightful and
profitable to the worker; and when your toil has been a pleasure, you
have not earned money merely, but money, health, delight, and moral
profit, all in one.

*****

‘The cost of a thing,’ says he, ‘is the amount OF WHAT I WILL CALL
LIFE which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the
long-run.’ I have been accustomed to put it to myself, perhaps more
clearly, that the price we have to pay for money is paid in liberty.
Between these two ways of it, at least, the reader will probably not
fail to find a third definition of his own; and it follows, on one or
other, that a man may pay too dearly for his livelihood, by giving, in
Thoreau’s terms, his whole life for it, or, in mine, bartering for it
the whole of his available liberty, and becoming a slave till death.
There are two questions to be considered--the quality of what we buy,
and the price we have to pay for it. Do you want a thousand a year, a
two thousand a year, or a ten thousand a year livelihood? and can you
afford the one you want? It is a matter of taste; it is not in the least
degree a question of duty, though commonly supposed so. But there is no
authority for that view anywhere. It is nowhere in the Bible. It is true
that we might do a vast amount of good if we were wealthy, but it is
also highly improbable; not many do; and the art of growing rich is not
only quite distinct from that of doing good, but the practice of the one
does not at all train a man for practising the other.

*****

We may escape uncongenial toil, only to devote ourselves to that which
is congenial. It is only to transact some higher business that even
Apollo dare play the truant from Admetus. We must all work for the sake
of work; we must all work, as Thoreau says again, in any ‘absorbing
pursuit--it does not much matter what, so it be honest’; but the most
profitable work is that which combines into one continued effort the
largest proportion of the powers and desires of a man’s nature; that
into which he will plunge with ardour, and from which he will desist
with reluctance; in which he will know the weariness of fatigue, but not
that of satiety; and which will be ever fresh, pleasing and stimulating
to his taste. Such work holds a man together, braced at all points; it
does not suffer him to doze or wander; it keeps him actively conscious
of himself, yet raised among superior interests; it gives him the profit
of industry with the pleasures of a pastime. This is what his art should
be to the true artist, and that to a degree unknown in other and less
intimate pursuits. For other professions stand apart from the human
business of life; but an art has the seat at the centre of the artist’s
doings and sufferings, deals directly with his experiences, teaches him
the lessons of his own fortunes and mishaps, and becomes a part of his
biography.

*****

     Farewell fair day and fading light!
     The clay-born here, with westward sight,
     Marks the huge sun now downward soar.
     Farewell.  We twain shall meet no more.

     Farewell.  I watch with bursting sigh
     My late contemned occasion die.
     I linger useless in my tent:
     Farewell, fair day, so foully spent!

     Farewell, fair day.  If any God
     At all consider this poor clod,
     He who the fair occasion sent
     Prepared and placed the impediment.

     Let him diviner vengeance take--
     Give me to sleep, give me to wake
     Girded and shod, and bid me play
     The hero in the coming day!

*****

Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be
sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things. And it is not by
any means certain that a man’s business is the most important thing he
has to do. To an impartial estimate it will seem clear that many of the
wisest, most virtuous, and most beneficent parts that are to be played
upon the Theatre of Life are filled by gratuitous performers, and pass,
among the world at large, as phases of idleness. For in that Theatre,
not only the walking gentlemen, singing chambermaids, and diligent
fiddlers in the orchestra, but those who look on and clap their hands
from the benches, do really play a part and fulfil important offices
towards the general result.

*****

The fact is, fame may be a forethought and an afterthought, but it is
too abstract an idea to move people greatly in moments of swift
and momentous decision. It is from something more immediate, some
determination of blood to the head, some trick of the fancy, that the
breach is stormed or the bold word spoken. I am sure a fellow shooting
an ugly weir in a canoe has exactly as much thought about fame as most
commanders going into battle; and yet the action, fall out how it
will, is not one of those the muse delights to celebrate. Indeed, it
is difficult to see why the fellow does a thing so nameless and yet so
formidable to look at, unless on the theory that he likes it.

*****

It is but a lying cant that would represent the merchant and the banker
as people disinterestedly toiling for mankind, and then most useful when
absorbed in their transactions; for the man is more important than his
services.

*****

It was my custom, as the hours dragged on, to repeat the question, ‘When
will the carts come in?’ and repeat it again and again until at last
those sounds arose in the street that I have heard once more this
morning. The road before our house is a great thoroughfare for early
carts. I know not, and I never have known, what they carry, whence they
come, or whither they go. But I know that, long ere dawn, and for hours
together, they stream continuously past, with the same rolling and
jerking of wheels, and the same clink of horses’ feet. It was not for
nothing that they made the burthen of my wishes all night through. They
are really the first throbbings of life, the harbingers of day; and it
pleases you as much to hear them as it must please a shipwrecked seaman
once again to grasp a hand of flesh and blood after years of miserable
solitude. They have the freshness of the daylight life about them. You
can hear the carters cracking their whips and crying hoarsely to their
horses or to one another; and sometimes even a peal of healthy, harsh
horse-laughter comes up to you through the darkness. There is now an end
to mystery and fear. Like the knocking at the door in MACBETH, or the
cry of the watchman in the TOUR DE NESLE, they show that the horrible
caesura is over, and the nightmares have fled away, because the day
is breaking and the ordinary life of men is beginning to bestir itself
among the streets.

*****

She was as dead an old woman as ever I saw; no more than bone and
parchment, curiously put together. Her eyes, with which she interrogated
mine, were vacant of sense. It depends on what you call seeing, whether
you might not call her blind. Perhaps she had known love; perhaps borne
children, suckled them, and given them pet names. But now that was all
gone by, and had left her neither happier nor wiser; and the best she
could do with her mornings was to come up here into the cold church and
juggle for a slice of heaven. It was not without a gulp that I escaped
into the streets and the keen morning air. Morning? why, how tired of
it she would be before night! and if she did not sleep, how then? It
is fortunate that not many of us are brought up publicly to justify
our lives at the bar of threescore years and ten; fortunate that such a
number are knocked opportunely on the head in what they call the flower
of their years, and go away to suffer for their follies in private
somewhere else. Otherwise, between sick children and discontented old
folk, we might be put out of all conceit of life.

*****

When I was going, up got my old stroller, and off with his hat. ‘I am
afraid,’ said he, ‘that monsieur will think me altogether a beggar;
but I have another demand to make upon him.’ I began to hate him on the
spot. ‘We play again to-night,’ he went on. ‘Of course I shall refuse
to accept any more money from monsieur and his friends, who have been
already so liberal. But our programme of to-night is something truly
creditable; and I cling to the idea that monsieur will honour us
with his presence. And then, with a shrug and a smile: ‘Monsieur
understands--the vanity of an artist!’ Save the mark! The vanity of an
artist! That is the kind of thing that reconciles me to life: a ragged,
tippling, incompetent old rogue, with the manners of a gentleman and the
vanity of an artist, to keep up his self-respect!

*****

Time went on, and the boy’s health still slowly declined. The Doctor
blamed the weather, which was cold and boisterous. He called in his
CONFRERE from Burron, took a fancy for him, magnified his capacity, and
was pretty soon under treatment himself--it scarcely appeared for what
complaint. He and Jean-Marie had each medicine to take at different
periods of the day. The Doctor used to lie in wait for the exact moment,
watch in hand. ‘There is nothing like regularity,’ he would say, fill
out the doses, and dilate on the virtues of the draught; and if the boy
seemed none the better, the Doctor was not at all the worse.

*****

‘I lead you,’ he would say, ‘by the green pastures. My system, my
beliefs, my medicines, are resumed in one phrase--to avoid excess.
Blessed nature, healthy, temperate nature, abhors and exterminates
excess. Human law in this matter imitates at a great distance her
provisions; and we must strive to supplement the efforts of the law.
Yes, boy, we must be a law to ourselves and for our neighbours--LEX
ARMATA--armed, emphatic, tyrannous law. If you see a crapulous human
ruin snuffing, dash from him his box! The judge, though in a way an
admission of disease, is less offensive to me than either the doctor or
the priest. Above all, the doctor--the doctor and the purulent trash
and garbage of his pharmacopoeia! Pure air--from the neighbourhood of
a pinetum for the sake of the turpentine--unadulterated wine, and the
reflections of an unsophisticated spirit in the presence of the works
of nature--these, my boy, are the best medical appliances and the best
religious comforts. Devote yourself to these. Hark! there are the bells
of Bourron (the wind is in the North, it will be fair). How clear and
airy is the sound! The nerves are harmonised and quieted; the mind
attuned to silence; and observe how easily and regularly beats the
heart! Your unenlightened doctor would see nothing in these sensations;
and yet you yourself perceive they are a part of health. Did you
remember your cinchona this morning? Good. Cinchona also is a work of
nature; it is, after all, only the bark of a tree which we might gather
for, ourselves if we lived in the locality.’

*****

The accepted novelist may take his novel up and put it down, spend days
upon it in vain, and write not any more than he makes haste to blot. Not
so the Beginner. Human nature has certain rights; instinct--the instinct
of self-preservation--forbids that any man (cheered and supported by
the consciousness of no previous victory) should endure the miseries
of unsuccessful literary toil beyond a period to be measured in weeks.
There must be something for hope to feed upon. The beginner must have a
slant of wind, a lucky vein must be running, he must be in one of those
hours when the words come and the phrases balance themselves--EVEN TO
BEGIN. And having begun, what a dread looking forward is that until the
book shall be accomplished! For so long a time the slant is to continue
unchanged, the vein to keep running, for so long a time you must keep at
command the same quality of style: for so long a time your puppets are
to be always vital, always consistent, always vigorous!

*****

What is this fortunate circumstance, my friend? inquired Anastasie, not
heeding his protest, which was of daily recurrence.

‘That we have no children, my beautiful,’ replied the Doctor. ‘I think
of it more and more as the years go on, and with more and more gratitude
towards the Power that dispenses such afflictions. Your health, my
darling, my studious quiet, our little kitchen delicacies, how they
would all have suffered, how they would all have been sacrificed! And
for what? Children are the last word of human imperfection. Health flees
before their face. They cry, my dear; they put vexatious questions;
they demand to be fed, to be washed, to be educated, to have their noses
blowed; and then, when the time comes, they break our hearts, as I
break this piece of sugar. A pair of professed egoists, like you and me,
should avoid offspring, like an infidelity.’

‘Indeed!’ said she; and she laughed. ‘Now, that is like you--to take
credit for the thing you could not help.’

*****

I have been made to learn that the doom and burthen of our life is bound
for ever on man’s shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast
it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful
pressure.

*****

     Forth from the casement, on the plain
     Where honour has the world to gain,
     Pour forth and bravely do your part,
     O knights of the unshielded heart!
     ‘Forth and for ever forward!--out
     From prudent turret and redoubt,
     And in the mellay charge amain,
     To fall, but yet to rise again!
     Captive?  Ah, still, to honour bright,
     A captive soldier of the right!
     Or free and fighting, good with ill?
     Unconquering but unconquered still!

     O to be up and doing, O
     Unfearing and unshamed to go
     In all the uproar and the press
     About my human business!
     My undissuaded heart I hear
     Whisper courage in my ear.
     With voiceless calls, the ancient earth
     Summons me to a daily birth.

*****

Yet it is to this very responsibility that the rich are born. They
can shuffle off the duty on no other; they are their own paymasters on
parole; and must pay themselves fair wages and no more. For I suppose
that in the course of ages, and through reform and civil war and
invasion, mankind was pursuing some other and more general design than
to set one or two Englishmen of the nineteenth century beyond the reach
of needs and duties. Society was scarce put together, and defended
with so much eloquence and blood, for the convenience of two or three
millionaires and a few hundred other persons of wealth and position.
It is plain that if mankind thus acted and suffered during all these
generations, they hoped some benefit, some ease, some wellbeing, for
themselves and their descendants; that if they supported law and order,
it was to secure fair-play for all; that if they denied themselves in
the present, they must have had some designs on the future. Now a
great hereditary fortune is a miracle of man’s wisdom and mankind’s
forbearance; it has not only been amassed and handed down, it has been
suffered to be amassed and handed down; and surely in such consideration
as this, its possessor should find only a new spur to activity and
honour, that with all this power of service he should not prove
unserviceable, and that this mass of treasure should return in benefits
upon the race. If he had twenty, or thirty, or a hundred thousand at his
banker’s, or if all Yorkshire or all California were his to manage or to
sell, he would still be morally penniless, and have the world to begin
like Whittington, until he had found some way of serving mankind. His
wage is physically in his own hand; but, in honour, that wage must still
be earned. He is only steward on parole of what is called his fortune.
He must honourably perform his stewardship. He must estimate his own
services and allow himself a salary in proportion, for that will be
one among his functions. And while he will then be free to spend that
salary, great or little, on his own private pleasures, the rest of his
fortune he but holds and disposes under trust for mankind; it is
not his, because he has not earned it; it cannot be his, because
his services have already been paid; but year by year it is his to
distribute, whether to help individuals whose birthright and outfit has
been swallowed up in his, or to further public works and institutions.

*****

‘Tis a fine thing to smart for one’s duty; even in the pangs of it there
is contentment.

*****

We all suffer ourselves to be too much concerned about a little poverty;
but such considerations should not move us in the choice of that which
is to be the business and justification of so great a portion of our
lives and like the missionary, the patriot, or the philosopher, we
should all choose that poor and brave career in which we can do the most
and best for mankind.

*****

The salary in any business under heaven is not the only, nor indeed the
first, question. That you should continue to exist is a matter for your
own consideration; but that your business should be first honest, and
second useful, are points in which honour and morality are concerned.

*****

There is only one wish realisable on the earth; only one thing that can
be perfectly attained: Death. And from a variety of circumstances we
have no one to tell us whether it be worth attaining.

A strange picture we make on our way to our chimaeras, ceaselessly
marching, grudging ourselves the time for rest; indefatigable,
adventurous pioneers. It is true that we shall never reach the goal; it
is even more than probable that there is no such place; and if we lived
for centuries and were endowed with the powers of a god, we should find
ourselves not much nearer what we wanted at the end. O toiling hands of
mortals! O unwearied feet, travelling ye know not whither! Soon, soon,
it seems to you,’ you must come forth on some conspicuous hilltop, and
but a little way further, against the setting sun, descry the spires
of El Dorado. Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel
hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to
labour.

*****

A man who must separate himself from his neighbours’ habits in order to
be happy, is in much the same case with one who requires to take opium
for the same purpose. What we want to see is one who can breast into the
world, do a man’s work, and still preserve his first and pure enjoyment
of existence.

There is apt to be something unmanly, something almost dastardly, in
a life that does not move with dash and freedom, and that fears the
bracing contact of the world.

*****

You cannot run away from a weakness; you must some time fight it out or
perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?

*****

Life as a matter of fact, partakes largely of the nature of tragedy.
The gospel according to Whitman, even if it be not so logical, has
this advantage over the gospel according to Pangloss, that it does not
utterly disregard the existence of temporal evil. Whitman accepts the
fact of disease and wretchedness like an honest man; and instead of
trying to qualify it in the interest of his optimism, sets himself to
spur people up to be helpful.

*****

Indeed, I believe this is the lesson; if it is for fame that men do
brave actions, they are only silly fellows after all.

*****

To avoid an occasion for our virtues is a worse degree of failure than
to push forward pluckily and make a fall. It is lawful to pray God that
we be not led into temptation; but not lawful to skulk from those that
come to us.

*****

To be honest, to be kind--to earn a little and to spend a little less,
to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce
when that shall be necessary and not to be embittered, to keep a few
friends, but these without capitulation--above all, on the same grim
conditions, to keep friends with himself--here is a task for all that a
man has of fortitude and delicacy.

*****

As we dwell, we living things, in our isle of terror and under the
imminent hand of death, God forbid it should be man the erected, the
reasoner, the wise in his own eyes’--God forbid it should be man that
wearies in welldoing, that despairs of unrewarded effort, or utters
the language of complaint. Let it be enough for faith, that the whole
creation groans in mortal frailty, strives with unconquerable constancy:
surely not all in vain.

*****

I find I never weary of great churches. It is my favourite kind of
mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made
a cathedral: a thing as single and specious as a statue to the first
glance, and yet, on examination, as lively and interesting as a forest
in detail. The height of spires cannot be taken by trigonometry; they
measure absurdly short, but how tall they are to the admiring eye! And
where we have so many elegant proportions, growing one out of the other,
and all together into one, it seems as if proportion transcended itself
and became something different and more imposing. I could never fathom
how a man dares to lift up his voice to preach in a cathedral. What is
he to say that will not be an anti-climax? For though I have heard
a considerable variety of sermons, I never yet heard one that was so
expressive as a cathedral. ‘Tis the best preacher itself, and preaches
day and night; not only telling you of man’s art and aspirations in the
past, but convicting your own soul of ardent sympathies; or rather, like
all good preachers, it sets you preaching to yourself--and every man is
his own doctor of divinity in the last resort.

*****

As the business man comes to love the toil, which he only looked upon
at first as a ladder towards other desires and less unnatural
gratifications, so the dumb man has felt the charm of his trade and
fallen captivated before the eyes of sin. It is a mistake when preachers
tell us that vice is hideous and loathsome; for even vice has her Horsel
and her devotees, who love her’ for her own sake.

Between these two, I now felt I had to choose. My two natures had memory
in common, but all other faculties were most unequally shared
between them. Jekyll (who was composite) now with the most sensitive
apprehensions, now with a greedy gusto, projected and shared in the
pleasures and adventures of Hyde; but Hyde was indifferent to Jekyll, or
but remembered him as the mountain bandit remembers the cavern in
which he conceals himself from pursuit. Jekyll had more than a father’s
interest; Hyde had more than a son’s indifference. To cast in my lot
with Jekyll was to die to those appetites which I had long secretly
indulged, and had of late begun to pamper. To cast it in with Hyde was
to die to a thousand interests and aspirations, and to become, at a blow
and for ever, despised and friendless. The bargain might appear unequal;
but there was still another consideration in the scale; for while Jekyll
would suffer smartingly in the fires of abstinence, Hyde would be not
even conscious of all that he had lost. Strange as my circumstances
were, the terms of this debate are as old and commonplace as man;
much the same inducements and alarms cast the die for any tempted and
trembling sinner; and it fell out with me, as it falls with so vast
a majority of my fellows, that I chose the better part, and was found
wanting in the strength to keep to it.

*****

Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty
of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and
hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame. It was thus rather the
exacting nature of my aspirations than any particular degradation in my
faults that made me what I was, and, with even a deeper trench than in
the majority of men, severed in me those provinces of good and ill which
divide and compound man’s dual nature. In this case I was driven to
reflect deeply and inveterately on that hard law of life, which lies
at the root of religion and is one of the most plentiful springs of
distress. Though so profound a double dealer, I was in no sense a
hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself
when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured,
in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of
sorrow and suffering. And it chanced that the direction of my scientific
studies, which led wholly towards the mystic and the transcendental,
reacted and shed a strong light on this consciousness of the perennial
war among my members. With every day, and from both sides of my
intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily
nearer to that truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to
such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.

*****

It may be argued again that dissatisfaction with our life’s endeavour
springs in some degree from dulness. We require higher tasks because
we do not recognise the height of those we have. Trying to be kind and
honest seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen
of our heroic mould; we had rather set ourselves something bold,
arduous, and conclusive; we had rather found a schism or suppress a
heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite. But the task before us,
which is to co-endure with our existence, is rather one of microscopic
fineness, and the heroism required is that of patience. There is no
cutting of the Gordian knots of life; each must be smilingly unravelled.

*****

It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting
shells than to be born a millionaire. Although neither is to be
despised, it is always better policy to learn an interest than to make
a thousand pounds; for the money will soon be spent, or perhaps you may
feel no joy in spending it; but the interest remains imperishable and
ever new. To become a botanist, a geologist, a social philosopher, an
antiquary, or an artist, is to enlarge one’s possessions in the universe
by an incalculably higher degree, and by a far surer sort of property,
than to purchase a farm of many acres.

*****

He who has learned to love an art or science has wisely laid up riches
against the day of riches; if prosperity come, he will not enter poor
into his inheritance; he will not slumber and forget himself in the lap
of money, or spend his hours in counting idle treasures, but be up and
briskly doing; he will have the true alchemic touch, which is not
that of Midas, but which transmutes dead money into living delight and
satisfaction. ETRE ET PAS AVOIR--to be, not to possess--that is the
problem of life. To be wealthy, a rich nature is the first requisite and
money but the second. To be of a quick and healthy blood, to share in
all honourable curiosities, to be rich in admiration and free from envy,
to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity
of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or
unkindness--these are the gifts of fortune which money cannot buy, and
without which money can buy nothing.

*****

An aim in life is the only fortune worth the finding; and it is not to
be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself.

*****

‘Mr. Archer was telling me in some strange land they used to run races
each with a lighted candle, and the art was to keep the candle burning.
Well, now, I thought that was like life; a man’s good conscience is the
flame he gets to carry, and if he comes to the winning-post with that
still burning, why, take it how you will, the man is a hero--even if he
was low-born like you and me.’

*****

Hope, they say, deserts us at no period of our existence. From first to
last, and in the face of smarting disillusions, we continue to
expect good fortune, better health, and better conduct; and that so
confidently, that we judge it needless to deserve them.

*****

‘Do I, indeed, lack courage?’ inquired Mr. Archer of himself. ‘Courage,
the footstool of the virtues, upon which they stand? Courage, that a
poor private carrying a musket has to spare of; that does not fail a
weasel or a rat; that is a brutish faculty? I to fail there, I wonder?
But what is courage? The constancy to endure oneself or to see others
suffer? The itch of ill-advised activity: mere shuttle-wittedness, or to
be still and patient? To inquire of the significance of words is to rob
ourselves of what we seem to know, and yet, of all things, certainly to
stand still is the least heroic.’

*****

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the
only end of life.

*****

But let the man learn to love a woman as far as he is capable of love;
and for this random affection of the body there is substituted a
steady determination, a consent of all his powers and faculties, which
supersedes, adopts, and commands the others. The desire survives,
strengthened, perhaps, but taught obedience, and changed in scope and
character. Life is no longer a tale of betrayals and regrets; for the
man now lives as a whole; his consciousness now moves on uninterrupted
like a river; through all the extremes and ups and downs of passion, he
remains approvingly conscious of himself.

Now to me, this seems a type of that righteousness which the soul
demands. It demands that we shall not live alternately with our opposing
tendencies in continual see-saw of passion and disgust, but seek some
path on which the tendencies shall no longer oppose, but serve each
other to a common end. It demands that we shall not pursue broken ends,
but great and comprehensive purposes, in which soul and body may unite,
like notes in a harmonious chord. That were indeed a way of peace and
pleasure, that were indeed a heaven upon earth. It does not demand,
however, or, to speak in measure, it does not demand of me, that I
should starve my appetites for no purpose under heaven but as a purpose
in itself; or, if in a weak despair, pluck out the eye that I have
not learned to guide and enjoy with wisdom. The soul demands unity
of purpose, not the dismemberment of man; it seeks to roll up all his
strength and sweetness, all his passion and wisdom, into one, and make
of him a perfect man exulting in perfection. To conclude ascetically is
to give up, and not to solve, the problem.

*****

The best teachers are the aged. To the old our mouths are always partly
closed; we must swallow our obvious retorts and listen. They sit above
our heads, on life’s raised dais, and appeal at once to our respect and
pity. A flavour of the old school, a touch of something different in
their manner--which is freer and rounder, if they come of what is called
a good family, and often more timid and precise if they are of the
middle class--serves, in these days, to accentuate the difference of age
and, add a distinction to grey hairs. But their superiority is founded
more deeply than by outward marks or gestures. They are before us in
the march of man; they have more or less solved the irking problem; they
have battled through the equinox of life; in good and evil they have
held their course; and now, without open shame, they near the crown and
harbour. It may be we have been struck with one of fortune’s darts; we
can scarce be civil, so cruelly is our spirit tossed. Yet long before
we were so much as thought upon, the like calamity befel the old man or
woman that now, with pleasant humour, rallies us upon our inattention,
sitting composed in the holy evening of man’s life, in the clear shining
after rain. We grow ashamed of our distresses, new and hot and coarse,
like villainous roadside brandy; we see life in aerial perspective,
under the heavens of faith; and out of the worst, in the mere presence
of contented elders, look forward and take patience. Fear shrinks before
them ‘like a thing reproved,’ not the flitting and ineffectual fear
of death, but the instant, dwelling terror of the responsibilities and
revenges of life. Their speech, indeed, is timid; they report lions in
the path; they counsel a meticulous footing; but their serene, marred
faces are more eloquent and tell another story. ‘Where they have gone,
we will go also, not very greatly fearing; what they have endured
unbroken, we also, God helping us, will make a shift to bear.

*****

If you teach a man to keep his eyes upon what others think of him,
unthinkingly to lead the life and hold the principles of the majority
of his contemporaries, you must discredit in his eyes the authoritative
voice of his own soul. He may be a docile citizen; he will never be
a man. It is ours, on the other hand, to disregard this babble and
chattering of other men better and worse than we are, and to walk
straight before us by what light we have. They may be right; but so,
before heaven, are we. They may know; but we know also, and by that
knowledge we must stand or fall. There is such a thing as loyalty to a
man’s own better self; and from those who have not that, God help
me, how am I to look for loyalty to others? The most dull, the most
imbecile, at a certain moment turn round, at a certain point will hear
no further argument, but stand unflinching by their own dumb, irrational
sense of right. It is not only by steel or fire, but through contempt
and blame, that the martyr fulfils the calling of his dear soul. Be glad
if you are not tried by such extremities. But although all the world
ranged themselves in one line to tell ‘This is wrong,’ be you your own
faithful vassal and the ambassador of God--throw down the glove and
answer, ‘This is right.’ Do you think you are only declaring yourself?
Perhaps in some dim way, like a child who delivers a message not fully
understood, you are opening wider the straits of prejudice and preparing
mankind for some truer and more spiritual grasp of truth; perhaps, as
you stand forth for your own judgment, you are covering a thousand
weak ones with your body; perhaps, by this declaration alone, you have
avoided the guilt of false witness against humanity and the little ones
unborn. It is good, I believe, to be respectable, but much nobler to
respect oneself and utter the voice of God.

I think it worth noting how this optimist was acquainted with pain.
It will seem strange only to the superficial. The disease of pessimism
springs never from real troubles, which it braces men to bear, which it
delights men to bear well. Nor does it readily spring at all, in minds
that have conceived of life as a field of ordered duties, not as a chase
in which to hunt for gratifications.

*****

But the race of man, like that indomitable nature whence it sprang,
has medicating virtues of its own; the years and seasons bring various
harvests; the sun returns after the rain; and mankind outlives secular
animosities, as a single man awakens from the passions of a day. We
judge our ancestors from a more divine position; and the dust being a
little laid with several centuries, we can see both sides adorned with
human virtues and fighting with a show of right.

*****

It is a commonplace that we cannot answer for ourselves before we
have been tried. But it is not so common a reflection, and surely more
consoling, that we usually find ourselves a great deal braver and
better than we thought. I believe this is every one’s experience; but
an apprehension that they may belie themselves in the future prevents
mankind from trumpeting this cheerful sentiment abroad. I wish
sincerely, for it would have saved me much trouble, there had been some
one to put me in a good heart about life when I was younger; to tell sue
how dangers are most portentous on a distant sight; and how the good
in a man’s spirit will not suffer itself to be overlaid, and rarely or
never deserts him in the hour of need. But we are all for tootling on
the sentimental flute in literature; and not a man among us will go to
the head of the march to sound the heady drums.

*****

It is a poor heart, and a poorer age, that cannot accept the conditions
of life with some heroic readiness.

*****

I told him I was not much afraid of such accidents; and at any rate
judged it unwise to dwell upon alarms or consider small perils in
the arrangement of life. Life itself I submitted, was a far too risky
business as a whole to make each additional particular of danger worth
regard.

*****

There is nothing but tit for tat in this world, though sometimes it be
a little difficult to trace; for the scores are older than we ourselves,
and there has never yet been a settling day since things were. You get
entertainment pretty much in proportion as you give. As long as we
were a sort of odd wanderers, to be stared at and followed like a quack
doctor or a caravan, we had no want of amusement in return; but as soon
as we sunk into commonplace ourselves, all whom we met were similarly
disenchanted. And here is one reason of a dozen why the world is dull to
dull persons.

*****

All literature, from Job and Omar Khayam to Thomas Carlyle or Walt
Whitman, is but an attempt to look upon the human state with such
largeness of view as shall enable us to rise from the consideration of
living to the Definition of Life. And our sages give us about the best
satisfaction in their power when they say that it is a vapour, or a
show, or made out of the same stuff with dreams. Philosophy, in its more
rigid sense, has been at the same work for ages; and after a myriad bald
heads have wagged over the problem, and piles of words have been heaped
one upon another into dry and cloudy volumes without end, philosophy
has the honour of laying before us, with modest pride, her contribution
towards the subject: that life is a Permanent Possibility of Sensation.
Truly a fine result! A man may very well love beef, or hunting, or a
woman; but surely, surely, not a Permanent Possibility of Sensation!
He may be afraid of a precipice, or a dentist, or a large enemy with a
club, or even an undertaker’s man; but not certainly of abstract death.
We may trick with the word life in its dozen senses until we are weary
of tricking; we may argue in terms of all the philosophies on earth, but
one fact remains true throughout--that we do not love life in the sense
that we are greatly preoccupied about its conservation; that we do not,
properly speaking, love life at all, but living.

*****

Whether we regard life as a lane leading to a dead wall--a mere bag’s
end, as the French say--or whether we think of it as a vestibule or
gymnasium, where we wait our turn and prepare our faculties for some
more noble destiny; whether we thunder in a pulpit, or pule in little
atheistic poetry-books, about its vanity and brevity; whether we look
justly for years of health and vigour, or are about to mount into a
bath-chair, as a step towards the hearse; in each and all of these views
and situations there is but one conclusion possible: that a man should
stop his ears against paralysing terror, and run the race that is set
before him with a single mind.

As courage and intelligence are the two qualities best worth a good
man’s cultivation, so it is the first part of intelligence to recognise
our precarious estate in life, and the first part of courage to be not
at all abashed before the fact. A frank and somewhat headlong carriage,
not looking too anxiously before, not dallying in maudlin regret over
the past, stamps the man who is well armoured for this world.

*****

It is not over the virtues of a curate-and-tea-party novel that people
are abashed into high resolutions. It may be because their hearts are
crass, but to stir them properly they must have men entering into glory
with sonic pomp and circumstance. And that is why these stories of our
sea-captains, printed, so to speak, in capitals, and full of bracing
moral influence, are more valuable to England than any material
benefit in all the books of political economy between Westminster and
Birmingham. Greenville chewing wine-glasses at table makes no very
pleasant figure, any more than a thousand other artists when they are
viewed in the body, or met in private life; but his work of art, his
finished tragedy, is an elegant performance; and I contend it ought not
only to enliven men of the sword as they go into battle, but send back
merchant-clerks with more heart and spirit to their book-keeping by
double entry.

*****

It is said that a poet has died young in the breast of the most stolid.
‘It may be contended, rather, that this (somewhat minor) bard in almost
every case survives, and is the spice of life to his possessor. Justice
is not done to the versatility and the unplumbed childishness of man’s
imagination. His life from without may seem but a rude mound of mud;
there will be some golden chamber at the heart of it, in which he dwells
delighted; and for as dark as his pathway seems to the observer, he will
have some kind of a bull’s-eye at his belt.

*****

For, to repeat, the ground of a man’s joy is often hard to hit. It may
hinge at times upon a mere accessory, like the lantern; it may reside,
like Dancer’s in the mysterious inwards of psychology. It may consist
with perpetual failure, and find exercise in the continued chase. It
has so little bond with externals (such as the observer scribbles in his
notebook) that it may even touch them not; and the man’s true life, for
which he consents to live, lie altogether in the field of fancy. The
clergyman in his spare hours may be winning battles, the farmer sailing
ships, the banker reaping triumph in the arts: all leading another
life, plying another trade from that they chose; like the poet’s
house-builder, who, after all, is cased in stone,

     ‘By his fireside, as impotent fancy prompts,
      Rebuilds it to his liking.’

In such a case the poetry runs underground. The observer (poor soul,
with his documents!) is all abroad. For to look at the man is but
to court deception. We shall see the trunk from which he draws his
nourishment; but he himself is above and abroad in the green dome of
foliage, hummed through by winds and nested in by nightingales. And
the true realism were that of the poets, to climb up after him like a
squirrel, and catch some glimpse of the heaven for which he lives. And
the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets: to find
out where joy resides, and give it voice beyond singing.

*****

He who shall pass judgment on the records of our life is the same that
formed us in frailty.

*****

We are all so busy, and have so many far-off projects to realise, and
castles in the fire to turn into solid habitable mansions on a gravel
soil, that we can find no time for pleasure trips into the Land of
Thought and among the Hills of Vanity. Changed times, indeed, when we
must sit all night, beside the fire, with folded hands; and a changed
world for most of us, when we find we can pass the hours without
discontent, and be happy thinking. We are in such haste to be doing, to
be writing, to be gathering gear, to make our voice audible a moment
in the derisive silence of eternity, that we forget that one thing,
of which these are but the parts--namely, to live. We fall in love, we
drink hard, we run to and fro upon the earth like frightened sheep. And
now you are to ask yourself if, when all is done, you would not have
been better to sit by the fire at home, and be happy thinking. To sit
still and contemplate--to remember the faces of women without desire, to
be pleased by the great deeds of men without envy, to be everything and
everywhere in sympathy, and yet content to remain where and what you
are--is not this to know both wisdom and virtue, and to dwell with
happiness?

*****

Of those who fail, I do not speak--despair should be sacred; but
to those who even modestly succeed, the changes of their life bring
interest: a job found, a shilling saved, a dainty earned, all these are
wells of pleasure springing afresh for the successful poor; and it is
not from these, but from the villa-dweller, that we hear complaints of
the unworthiness of life.

*****

I shall be reminded what a tragedy of misconception and misconduct
man at large presents: of organised injustice, cowardly violence and
treacherous crime; and of the damning imperfections of the best. They
cannot be too darkly drawn. Man is indeed marked for failure in his
efforts to do right. But where the best consistently miscarry, how
tenfold more remarkable that all should continue to strive; and surely
we should find it both touching and inspiriting, that in a field from
which success is banished, our race should not cease to labour.

*****

Poor soul, here for so little, cast among so many hardships, filled
with desires so incommensurate and so inconsistent, savagely surrounded,
savagely descended, irremediably condemned to prey upon his fellow
lives: who should have blamed him had he been of a piece with his
destiny and a being merely barbarous? And we look and behold him instead
filled with imperfect virtues: infinitely childish, often admirably
valiant, often touchingly kind; sitting down amidst his momentary life,
to debate of right and wrong and the attributes of the deity; rising up
to do battle for an egg or die for an idea; singling out his friends and
his mate with cordial affection; bringing forth in pain, rearing, with
long-suffering solicitude, his young. To touch the heart of his mystery,
we find in him one thought, strange to the point of lunacy: the thought
of duty, the thought of something owing to himself, to his neighbour,
to his God: an ideal of decency, to which he would rise if it were
possible; a limit of shame, below which, if it be possible, he will not
stoop.

*****

There are two just reasons for the choice any way of life: the first
is inbred taste in the chooser; the second some high utility in the
industry selected.

*****

There is an idea abroad among moral people that they should make their
neighbours good. One person I have to make good: myself. But my duty to
my neighbour is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make
him happy--if I may.

*****

In his own life, then, a man is not to expect happiness, only to profit
by it gladly when it shall arise; he is on duty here; he knows not how
or why, and does not need to know; he knows not for what hire, and must
not ask. Somehow or other, though he does not know what goodness is, he
must try to be good; somehow or other, though he cannot tell what will
do it, he must try to give happiness to others.

*****

Of this one thing I am sure: that every one thawed and became more
humanised and conversible as soon as these innocent people appeared upon
the scene. I would not readily trust the travelling merchant with any
extravagant sum of money, but I am sure his heart was in the right
place.

In this mixed world, if you can find one or two sensible places in a
man; above all, if you should find a whole family living together on
such pleasant terms, you may surely be satisfied, and take the rest for
granted; or, what is a great deal better, boldly make up your mind that
you can do perfectly well without the rest, and that ten thousand bad
traits cannot make a single good one any the less good.

*****

His was, indeed, a good influence in life while he was still among us;
he had a fresh laugh; it did you good to see him; and, however sad he
may have been at heart, he always bore a bold and cheerful countenance
and took fortune’s worst as it were the showers of spring.

*****

Pleasures are more beneficial than duties because, like the quality
of mercy, they are not strained, and they are twice blest. There
must always be two in a kiss, and there may be a score in a jest; but
wherever there is an element of sacrifice, the favour is conferred with
pain, and, among generous people, received with confusion.

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By
being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world, which remain
unknown even to ourselves, or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody
so much as the benefactor.

*****

A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound note.
He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill; and their entrance into
a room is as though another candle had been lighted. We need not care
whether they could prove the forty-seventh proposition; they do a better
thing than that, they practically demonstrate the great Theorem of the
Liveableness of Life.

*****

Mme. Bazin came out after a while; she was tired with her day’s work,
I suppose; and she nestled up to her husband and laid her head upon
his breast. He had his arm about her and kept gently patting her on the
shoulder. I think Bazin was right, and he was really married. Of how few
people can the same be said!

Little did the Bazins know how much they served us. We were charged for
candles, for food and drink, and for the beds we slept in. But there was
nothing in the bill for the husband’s pleasant talk; nor for the
pretty spectacle of their married life. And there was yet another item
uncharged. For these people’s, politeness really set us up again in our
own esteem. We had a thirst for consideration; the sense of insult was
still hot in our spirits; and civil usage seemed to restore us to our
position in the world.

How little we pay our way in life! Although we have our purses
continually in our hand, the better part of service goes still
unrewarded. But I like to fancy that a grateful spirit gives as good as
it gets. Perhaps the Bazins knew how much I liked them? perhaps they,
also, were healed of some slights by the thanks that I gave them in my
manner?

*****

No art, it may be said, was ever perfect, and not many noble, that has
not been mirthfully conceived. And no man, it may be added, was ever
anything but a wet blanket and a cross to his companions who boasted not
a copious spirit of enjoyment.

*****

There is yet another class who do not depend on corporal advantages, but
support the winter in virtue of a brave and merry heart. One shivering
evening, cold enough for frost, but with too high a wind, and a little
past sundown, when the Lamps were beginning to enlarge their circles
in the growing dusk, a brace of barefooted lassies were seen coming
eastward in the teeth of the wind. If the one was as much as nine, the
other was certainly not more than seven. They were miserably clad; and
the pavement was so cold, you would have thought no one could lay a
naked foot on it unflinching. Yet they came along waltzing, if you
please, while the elder sang a tune to give them music. The person who
saw this, and whose heart was full of bitterness at the moment, pocketed
a reproof which has been of use to him ever since, and which he now
hands on, with his good wishes, to the reader.

*****

Happiness, at least, is not solitary; it joys to communicate; it loves
others, for it depends on them for its existence; it sanctions and
encourages to all delights that are not unkind in themselves; if it
lived to a thousand, it would not make excision of a single humorous
passage; and while the self-improver dwindles toward the prig, and, if
he be not of an excellent constitution, may even grow deformed into
an Obermann, the very name and appearance of a happy man breathe of
good-nature, and help the rest of us to live.

*****

It is never a thankful office to offer advice; and advice is the more
unpalatable, not only from the difficulty of the service recommended,
but often from its very obviousness. We are fired with anger against
those who make themselves the spokesmen of plain obligations; for they
seem to insult us as they advise.

*****

We are not all patient Grizzels, by good fortune, but the most of us
human beings with feelings and tempers of our own.

*****

Men, whether lay or clerical, suffer better the flame of the stake
than a daily inconvenience or a pointed sneer, and will not readily be
martyred without some external circumstance and a concourse looking on.

*****

An imperturbable demeanour comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds
cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at
their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

*****

The ways of men seem always very trivial to us when we find ourselves
alone on a church top, with the blue sky and a few tall pinnacles, and
see far below us the steep roofs and foreshortened buttresses, and the
silent activity of the city streets.

*****

Nevertheless, there is a certain frame of mind to which a cemetery is,
if not an antidote, at least an alleviation. If you are in a fit of the
blues, go nowhere else.

*****

Honour can survive a wound; it can live and thrive without member. The
man rebounds from his disgrace; he begins fresh foundations on the ruins
of the old; and when his sword is broken, he will do valiantly with his
dagger.

*****

It is easy to be virtuous when one’s own convenience is not affected;
and it is no shame to any man to follow the advice of an outsider who
owns that, while he sees which is the better part, he might not have the
courage to profit himself by this opinion.

*****

As soon as prudence has begun to grow up in the brain, like a dismal
fungus, it finds its expression in a paralysis of generous acts.

*****

The man who cannot forgive any mortal thing is a green hand in life.

*****

It is a useful accomplishment to be able to say NO, but surely it is the
essence of amiability to prefer to say YES where it is possible. There
is something wanting in the man who does not hate himself whenever he is
constrained to say no. And there was a great deal wanting in this born
dissenter. He was almost shockingly devoid of weaknesses; he had not
enough of them to be truly polar with humanity; whether you call him
demi-god or demi-man, he was at least not altogether one of us, for he
was not touched with a feeling of our infirmities. The world’s heroes
have room for all positive qualities, even those which are disreputable,
in the capacious theatre of their dispositions. Such can live many
lives; while a Thoreau can live but one, and that only with perpetual
foresight.

*****

We can all be angry with our neighbour; what we want is to be shown, not
his defects, of which we are too conscious, but his merits, to which we
are too blind.

*****

   And methought that beauty and terror are only one, not two;
   And the world has room for love, and death, and thunder, and dew;
   And all the sinews of hell slumber in summer air;
   And the face of God is a rock, but the face of the rock is fair.
   Beneficent streams of tears flow at the finger of pain;
   And out of the cloud that smites, beneficent rivers of rain.

*****

‘The longest and most abstruse flight of a philosopher becomes clear and
shallow, in the flash of a moment, when we suddenly perceive the
aspect and drift of his intention. The longest argument is but a finger
pointed; once we get our own finger rightly parallel, and we see what
the man meant, whether it be a new Star or an old street-lamp. And
briefly, if a saying is hard to understand, it is because we are
thinking of something else.

*****

I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and I believe
they both get paid in the end, but the fools first.

*****

Whether people’s gratitude for the good gifts that come to them be
wisely conceived or dutifully expressed is a secondary matter, after
all, so long as they feel gratitude. The true ignorance is when a man
does not know that he has received a good gift, or begins to imagine
that he has got it for himself. The self-made man is the funniest
windbag after all! There is a marked difference between decreeing light
in chaos, and lighting the gas in a metropolitan back parlour with a box
of patent matches; and, do what we will, there is always something made
to our hand, if it were only our fingers.

*****

Benjamin Franklin went through life an altered man, because he once paid
too dearly for a penny whistle. My concern springs usually from a deeper
source, to wit, from having bought a whistle when I did not want one.

*****

I believe in a better state of things, that there will be no more
nurses, and that every mother will nurse her own offspring; for what
can be more hardening and demoralising than to call forth the tenderest
feelings of a woman’s heart and cherish them yourself as long as you
need them, as long as your children require a nurse to love them, and
then to blight and thwart and destroy them, whenever your own use for
them is at an end.

*****

We had needs invent heaven if it had not been revealed to us; there are
some things that fall so bitterly ill on this side time!

*****

To write with authority about another man, we must have fellow-feeling
and some common ground of experience with our subject. We may praise
or blame according as we find him related to us by the best or worst in
ourselves; but it is only in virtue of some relationship that we can
be his judges, even to condemn. Feelings which we share and understand
enter for us into the tissue of the man’s character; those to which we
are strangers in our own experience we are inclined to regard as blots,
exceptions, inconsistencies, and excursions of the diabolic; we conceive
them with repugnance, explain them with difficulty, and raise our hands
to heaven in wonder when we find them in conjunction with talents that
we respect or virtues that we admire.

*****

To the best of my belief, Mr. Shandy is the first who fairly pointed
out the incalculable influence of nomenclature upon the whole life--who
seems first to have recognised the one child, happy in an heroic
appellation, soaring upwards on the wings of fortune, and the other,
like the dead sailor in his shotted hammock, haled down by sheer weight
of name into the abysses of social failure.

*****

It would be well if nations and races could communicate their qualities;
but in practice when they look upon each other, they have an eye to
nothing but defects.

*****

Many a man’s destiny has been settled by nothing apparently more grave
than a pretty face on the opposite side of the street and a couple of
bad companions round the corner.

*****

So kindly is the world arranged, such great profit may arise from a
small degree of human reliance on oneself, and such, in particular, is
the happy star of this trade of writing, that it should combine pleasure
and profit to both parties, and be at once agreeable, like fiddling, and
useful, like good preaching.

*****

In all garrison towns, guard-calls, and reveilles, and such like, make a
fine, romantic interlude in civic business. Bugles, and drums, and fifes
are of themselves most excellent things in nature, and when they carry
the mind to marching armies and the picturesque vicissitudes of war they
stir up something proud in the heart.

*****

To pass from hearing literature to reading it is to take a great and
dangerous step. With not a few, I think a large proportion of their
pleasure then comes to an end; ‘the malady of not marking’ overtakes
them; they read thenceforward by the eye alone and hear never again the
chime of fair words or the march of the stately period. NON RAGIONIAM of
these. But to all the step is dangerous; it involves coming of age; it
is even a kind of second weaning. In the past all was at the choice of
others; they chose, they digested, they read aloud for us and sang to
their own tune the books of childhood. In the future we are to approach
the silent, inexpressive type alone, like pioneers; and the choice of
what we are to read is in our own hands thenceforward.

*****

It remains to be seen whether you can prove yourselves as generous as
you have been wise and patient.

*****

‘If folk dinna ken what ye’re doing, Davie, they’re terrible taken up
with it; but if they think they ken, they care nae mair for it than what
I do for pease porridge.’

*****

And perhaps if you could read in my soul, or I could read in yours, our
own composure might seem little less surprising.

*****

For charity begins blindfold; and only through a series of
misapprehensions rises at length into a settled principle of love and
patience, and a firm belief in all our fellow-men.

*****

There is no doubt that the poorer classes in our country are much more
charitably disposed than their superiors in wealth. And I fancy it must
arise a great deal from the comparative indistinction of the easy and
the not so easy in these ranks. A workman or a pedlar cannot shutter
himself off from his less comfortable neighbours. If he treats himself
to a luxury, he must do it in the face of a dozen who cannot. And what
should more directly lead to charitable thoughts? Thus the poor man,
camping out in life, sees it as it is, and knows that every mouthful he
puts in his belly has been wrenched out of the fingers of the hungry.

But at a certain stage of prosperity, as in a balloon ascent, the
fortunate person passes through a zone of clouds, and sublunary matters
are thenceforward hidden from his view. He sees nothing but the heavenly
bodies, all in admirable order, and positively as good as new. He finds
himself surrounded in the most touching manner by the attentions of
Providence, and compares himself involuntarily with the lilies and the
skylarks. He does not precisely sing, of course; but then he looks so
unassuming in his open laudau! If all the world dined at one table, this
philosophy would meet with some rude knocks.

*****

Forgive me, if I seem to teach, who am as ignorant as the trees of the
mountain; but those who learn much do but skim the face of knowledge;
they seize the laws, they conceive the dignity of the design--the horror
of the living fact fades from the memory. It is we who sit at home with
evil who remember, I think, and are warned and pity.

*****

Look back now, for a moment, on your own brief experience of life; and
although you lived it feelingly in your own person, and had every step
of conduct burned in by pains and joys upon your memory, tell me what
definite lesson does experience hand on from youth to manhood, or from
both to age? The settled tenor which first strikes the eye is but
the shadow of a delusion. This is gone; that never truly was; and you
yourself are altered beyond recognition. Times and men and circumstances
change about your changing character, with a speed of which no earthly
hurricane affords an image. What was the best yesterday, is it still the
best in this changed theatre of a to-morrow? Will your own Past truly
guide you in your own violent and unexpected Future? And if this be
questionable, with what humble, with what hopeless eyes, should we not
watch other men driving beside us on their unknown careers, seeing with
unlike eyes, impelled by different gales, doing and suffering in another
sphere of things?

*****

The problem of education is twofold: first to know, and then to utter.
Every one who lives any semblance of an inner life thinks more nobly and
profoundly than he speaks; and the best teachers can impart only broken
images of the truth which they perceive. Speech which goes from one
to another between two natures, and, what is worse, between two
experiences, is doubly relative. The speaker buries his meaning; it is
for the hearer to dig it up again; and all speech, written or spoken, is
in a dead language until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.

*****

Culture is not measured by the greatness of the field which is covered
by our knowledge, but by the nicety with which we can perceive relations
in that field, whether great or small.

*****

We are accustomed nowadays to a great deal of puling over the
circumstances in which we are placed. The great refinement of many
poetical gentlemen has rendered them practically unfit for the jostling
and ugliness of life, and they record their unfitness at considerable
length. The bold and awful poetry of Job’s complaint produces too many
flimsy imitators; for there is always something consolatory in grandeur,
but the symphony transposed for the piano becomes hysterically sad. This
literature of woe, as Whitman calls it, this MALADIE DE RENE, as we
like to call it in Europe, is in many ways a most humiliating and sickly
phenomenon. Young gentlemen with three or four hundred a year of private
means look down from a pinnacle of doleful experience on all the grown
and hearty men who have dared to say a good word for life since the
beginning of the world. There is no prophet but the melancholy Jacques,
and the blue devils dance on all our literary wires.

It would be a poor service to spread culture, if this be its result,
among the comparatively innocent and cheerful ranks of men. When our
little poets have to be sent to look at the ploughman and learn wisdom,
we must be careful how we tamper with our ploughmen. Where a man in not
the best of circumstances preserves composure of mind, and relishes ale
and tobacco, and his wife and children, in the intervals of dull and
unremunerative labour; where a man in this predicament can afford a
lesson by the way to what are called his intellectual superiors, there
is plainly something to be lost, as well as something to be gained, by
teaching him to think differently. It is better to leave him as he is
than to teach him whining. It is better that he should go without
the cheerful lights of culture, if cheerless doubt and paralysing
sentimentalism are to be the consequence. Let us, by all means, fight
against that hide-bound stolidity of sensation and sluggishness of mind
which blurs and decolorises for poor natures the wonderful pageant of
consciousness; let us teach people, as much as we can, to enjoy, and
they will learn for themselves to sympathise; but let us see to it,
above all, that we give these lessons in a brave, vivacious note,
and build the man up in courage while we demolish its substitute,
indifference.

*****

All opinions, properly so called, are stages on the road to truth. It
does not follow that a man will travel any further; but if he has really
considered the world and drawn a conclusion, he has travelled so far.
This does not apply to formulae got by rote, which are stages on the
road to nowhere but second childhood and the grave. To have a catchword
in your mouth is not the same thing as to hold an opinion; still less is
it the same thing as to have made one for yourself.

*****

It is surely beyond a doubt that people should be a good deal idle in
youth. For though here and there a Lord Macaulay may escape from school
honours with all his wits about him, most boys pay so dear for their
medals that they never afterwards have a shot in their locker, and begin
the world bankrupt. And the same holds true during all the time a lad is
educating himself, or suffering others to educate him.... Books are good
enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for
life. It seems a pity to sit, like the Lady of Shalott, peering into a
mirror, with your back turned on all the bustle and glamour of reality.
And if a man reads very hard, as the old anecdote reminds us, he will
have little time for thought.

*****

It is supposed that all knowledge is at the bottom of a well, or the far
end of a telescope. As a matter of fact, an intelligent person, looking
out of his eyes and hearkening in his ears, with a smile on his face all
the time, will get more true education than many another in a life of
heroic vigils. There is certainly some chill and arid knowledge to be
found upon the summits of formal and laborious science; but it is all
round about you, and for the trouble of looking, that you will acquire
the warm and palpitating facts of life. While others are filling their
memory with a lumber of words, one-half of which they will forget before
the week is out, your truant may learn some really useful art: to play
the fiddle, or to speak with ease and opportunity to all varieties of
men. Many who have ‘plied their book diligently,’ and know all about
some one branch or another of accepted lore, come out of the study
with an ancient and owl-like demeanour, and prove dry, stockish, and
dyspeptic in all the better and brighter parts of life. Many make a
large fortune who remain underbred and pathetically stupid to the last.
And meantime there goes the idler, who began life along with them--by
your leave, a different picture. He has had time to take care of his
health and his spirits; he has been a great deal in the open air, which
is the most salutary of all things for both body and mind; and if he has
never read the great Book in very recondite places, he has dipped into
it and skimmed it over to excellent purpose. Might not the student
afford some Hebrew roots, and the business man some of his half-crowns,
for a share of the idler’s knowledge of life at large, and Art of
Living?

*****

Nay, and the idler has another and more important quality than these. I
mean his wisdom. He who has much looked on at the childish satisfaction
of other people in their hobbies, will regard his own with only a very
ironical indulgence. He will not be heard among the dogmatists. He will
have a great and cool allowance for all sorts of people and opinions. If
he finds no out-of-the-way truths, he will identify himself with no
very burning falsehood. His way takes him along a by-road, not much
frequented, but very even and pleasant, which is called Commonplace
Lane, and leads to the Belvedere of Commonsense. Thence he shall command
an agreeable, if no very noble prospect; and while others behold the
East and West, the Devil and the sunrise, he will be contentedly aware
of a sort of morning hour upon all sublunary things, with an army of
shadows running speedily and in many different directions into the great
daylight of Eternity.

*****

I begin to perceive that it is necessary to know some one thing to the
bottom--were it only literature. And yet, sir, the man of the world is a
great feature of this age; he is possessed of an extraordinary mass and
variety of knowledge; he is everywhere at home; he has seen life in all
its phases; and it is impossible but that this great habit of existence
should bear fruit.

*****

I am sorry indeed that I have no Greek, but I should be sorrier still if
I were dead; nor do I know the name of that branch of knowledge which
is worth acquiring at the price of a brain fever. There are many sordid
tragedies in the life of the student, above all if he be poor, or
drunken, or both; but nothing more moves a wise man s pity than the case
of the lad who is in too much hurry to be learned.

*****

‘My friend,’ said I, ‘it is not easy to say who know the Lord; and it
is none of our business. Protestants and Catholics, and even those who
worship stones, may know Him and be known by Him; for He has made all.’

*****

Cheylard scrapes together halfpence or the darkened souls in Edinburgh;
while Balquhidder and Dunrossness bemoans the ignorance of Rome. Thus,
to the high entertainment of the angels, do we pelt each other with
evangelists, like schoolboys bickering in the snow.

*****

For courage respects courage; but where a faith has been trodden out, we
may look for a mean and narrow population.

*****

Its not only a great flight of confidence for a man to change his creed
and go out of his family for heaven’s sake; but the odds are--nay, and
the hope is--that, with all this great transition in the eyes of man,
he has not changed himself a hairbreadth to the eyes of God. Honour to
those who do so, for the wrench is sore. But it argues something narrow,
whether of strength or weakness, whether of the prophet or the fool, in
those who can take a sufficient interest in such infinitesimal and human
operations, or who can quit a friendship for a doubtful operation of the
mind. And I think I should not leave my old creed for another, changing
only words for words; but by some brave reading, embrace it in spirit
and truth, and find wrong as wrong for me as for the best of other
communions.

*****

It is not a basketful of law-papers, nor the hoofs and pistol-butts of a
regiment of horse, that can change one tittle of a ploughman’s thoughts.
Outdoor rustic people have not many ideas, but such as they have are
hardy plants, and thrive flourishingly in persecution. One who has grown
a long while in the sweat of laborious noons, and under the stars at
night, a frequenter of hills and forests, an old honest countryman, has,
in the end, a sense of communion with the powers of the universe, and
amicable relations towards his God. Like my mountain Plymouth Brother,
he knows the Lord. His religion does not repose upon a choice of logic;
it is the poetry of the man’s existence, the philosophy of the history
of his life. God, like a great power, like a great shining sun, has
appeared to this simple fellow in the course of years, and become the
ground and essence of his least reflections; and you may change creeds
and dogmas by authority, or proclaim, a new religion with the sound of
trumpets, if you will; but here is a man who has his own thoughts, and
will stubbornly adhere to them in good and evil. He is a Catholic, a
Protestant, or a Plymouth Brother, in the same indefeasible sense that a
man is not a woman, or a woman is not a man. For he could not vary from
his faith, unless he could eradicate all memory of the past, and, in a
strict and not conventional meaning, change his mind.

*****

     For still the Lord is Lord of might;
     In deeds, in deeds, he takes delight;
     The plough, the spear, the laden barks,
     The field, the founded city, marks;
     He marks the smiler of the streets,
     The singer upon garden seats;
     He sees the climber in the rocks:
     To him, the shepherd folds his flocks.
     For those he loves that underprop
     With daily virtues Heaven’s top,
     And bear the falling sky with ease,
     Unfrowning caryatides.
     Those he approves that ply the trade,
     That rock the child, that wed the maid,
     That with weak virtues, weaker hands,
     Sow gladness on the peopled lands,
     And still with laughter, song and shout,
     Spin the great wheel of earth about.

*****

The shadow of a great oak lies abroad upon the ground at noon, perfect,
clear, and stable like the earth. But let a man set himself to mark out
the boundary with cords and pegs, and were he never so nimble and never
so exact, what with the multiplicity of the leaves and the progression
of the shadow as it flees before the travelling sun, long ere he
has made the circuit the whole figure will have changed. Life may be
compared, not to a single tree, but to a great and complicated forest;
circumstance is more swiftly changing than a shadow, language much more
inexact than the tools of a surveyor; from day to day the trees fall and
are renewed; the very essences are fleeting as we look; and the whole
world of leaves is swinging tempest-tossed among the winds of time. Look
now for your shadows. O man of formulae, is this a place for you? Have
you fitted the spirit to a single case? Alas, in the cycle of the ages
when shall such another be proposed for the judgment of man? Now
when the sun shines and the winds blow, the wood is filled with an
innumerable multitude of shadows, tumultuously tossed and changing; and
at every gust the whole carpet leaps and becomes new. Can you or your
heart say more?

*****

Indeed, I can see no dishonesty in not avowing a difference; and
especially in these high matters, where we have all a sufficient
assurance that, whoever may be in the wrong, we ourselves are not
completely right.... I know right well that we are all embarked upon
a troublesome world, the children of one Father, striving in many
essential points to do and to become the same.

*****

The word ‘facts’ is, in some ways, crucial. I have spoken with Jesuits
and Plymouth Brethren, mathematicians and poets, dogmatic republicans
and dear old gentlemen in bird’s-eye neckcloths; and each understood the
word ‘facts’ in an occult sense of his own. Try as I might, I could get
no nearer the principle of their division. What was essential to them,
seemed to me trivial or untrue. We could come to no compromise as to
what was, or what was not, important in the life of man. Turn as we
pleased, we all stood back to back in a big ring, and saw another
quarter of the heavens, with different mountain-tops along the sky-line
and different constellations overhead. We had each of us some whimsy
in the brain, which we believed more than anything else, and which
discoloured all experience to its own shade. How would you have people
agree, when one is deaf and the other blind?

*****

The average man lives, and must live, so wholly in convention, that
gunpowder charges of the truth are more apt to discompose than to
invigorate his creed. Either he cries out upon blasphemy and indecency,
and crouches the closer round that little idol of part-truth and
part-conveniences which is the contemporary deity, or he is convinced
by what is new, forgets what is old, and becomes truly blasphemous and
indecent himself. New truth is only wanted to expand, not to destroy,
our civil and often elegant conventions. He who cannot judge had better
stick to fiction and the daily papers. There he will get little harm,
and, in the first at least, some good.

*****

The human race is a thing more ancient than the ten commandments; and
the bones and the revolutions of the Kosmos in whose joints we are but
moss and fungus, more ancient still.

*****

The canting moralist tells us of right and wrong; and we look abroad,
even on the face of our small earth, and find them change with every
climate, and no country where some action is not honoured for a virtue
and none where it is not branded for a vice; and we look into our
experience, and find no vital congruity in the wisest rules, but at the
best a municipal fitness. It is not strange if we are tempted to despair
of good. We ask too much. Our religions and moralities have been trimmed
to flatter us, till they are all emasculate and sentimentalised, and
only please and weaken. Truth is of a rougher strain. In the harsh face
of life, faith can read a bracing gospel.

*****

Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality; they are
the perfect duties.... If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it
they are wrong. I do not say ‘give them up,’ for they may be all you
have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of
better and simpler people.

*****

There is no quite good book without a good morality; but the world is
wide, and so are morals. Out of two people who have dipped into Sir
Richard Burton’s Thousand and One Nights, one shall have been offended
by the animal details; another to whom these were harmless, perhaps even
pleasing, shall yet have been shocked in his turn by the rascality and
cruelty of all the characters. Of two readers, again, one shall have
been pained by the morality of a religious memoir, one by that of the
VICOMTE DE BRAGELONNE. And the point is that neither need be wrong. We
shall always shock each other both in life and art; we cannot get the
sun into our pictures, nor the abstract right (if there be such a thing)
into our books; enough if, in the one, there glimmer some hint of the
great light that blinds us from heaven; enough if, in the other, there
shine, even upon foul details, a spirit of magnanimity.

*****

For to do anything because others do it, and not because the thing
is good, or kind, or honest in its own right, is to resign all moral
control and captaincy upon yourself, and go post-haste to the devil with
the greater number. The respectable are not led so much by any desire of
applause as by a positive need for countenance. The weaker and the tamer
the man, the more will he require this support; and any positive quality
relieves him, by just so much, of this dependence.

*****

Happiness and goodness, according to canting moralists, stand in the
relation of effect and cause. There was never anything less proved or
less probable: our happiness is never in our own hands; we inherit our
constitutions; we stand buffet among friends and enemies; we may be so
built as to feel a sneer or an aspersion with unusual keenness, and so
circumstanced as to be unusually exposed to them; we may have nerves
very sensitive to pain, and be afflicted with a disease more painful.
Virtue will not help us, and it is not meant to help us. It is not even
its own reward, except for the self-centred and--I had almost said--the
unamiable.

*****

Noble disappointment, noble self-denial, are not to be admired, not even
to be pardoned, if they bring bitterness. It is one thing to enter the
kingdom of heaven maim; another to maim yourself and stay without.

*****

To make our idea of morality centre on forbidden acts is to defile the
imagination and to introduce into our judgments of our fellow-men a
secret element of gusto. If a thing is wrong for us, we should not dwell
upon the thought of it; or we shall soon dwell upon it with inverted
pleasure.

*****

There is a certain class, professors of that low morality so greatly
more distressing than the better sort of vice, to whom you must never
represent an act that was virtuous in itself, as attended by any other
consequences than a large family and fortune.

*****

All have some fault. The fault of each grinds down the hearts of those
about him, and--let us not blink the truth--hurries both him and them
into the grave. And when we find a man persevering indeed, in his fault,
as all of us do, and openly overtaken, as not all of us are, by its
consequences, to gloss the matte over, with too polite biographers,
is to do the work of the wrecker disfiguring beacons on a perilous
seaboard; but to call him bad, with a self-righteous chuckle, is to be
talking in one’s sleep with Heedless and Too-bold in the arbour.

*****

The most influential books, and the truest in their influence, are
works of fiction. They do not pin the reader to a dogma, which he must
afterwards discover to be inexact; they do not teach a lesson, which he
must afterwards unlearn. They repeat, they rearrange, they clarify the
lessons of life; they disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to
the acquaintance of others; and they show us the web of experience,
not as we can see it for ourselves, but with a singular change--that
monstrous, consuming ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck out. To be
so, they must be reasonably true to the human comedy; and any work that
is so serves the turn of instruction.

*****

Nature is a good guide through life, and the love of simple pleasures
next, if not superior, to virtue.

*****

The soul asks honour and not fame; to be upright, not to be successful;
to be good, not prosperous; to be essentially, not outwardly,
respectable.

*****

Practice is a more intricate and desperate business than the toughest
theorising; life is an affair of cavalry, where rapid judgment and
prompt action are alone possible and right.

*****

Each man should learn what is within him, that he may strive to mend;
he must be taught what is without him, that he may be kind to others. It
can never be wrong to tell him the truth; for, in his disputable state,
weaving as he goes his theory of life, steering himself, cheering or
reproving others, all facts are of the first importance to his conduct;
and even if a fact shall discourage or corrupt him, it is still best
that he should know it; for it is in this world as it is, and not in a
world made easy by educational suppression, that he must win his way to
shame or glory.

*****

A generous prayer is never presented in vain; the petition may be
refused, but the petitioner is always, I believe, rewarded by some
gracious visitation.

*****

EVENSONG

     The embers of the day are red
     Beyond the murky hill.
     The kitchen smokes: the bed
     In the darkling house is spread:
     The great sky darkens overhead,
     And the great woods are shrill.
     So far have I been led,
     Lord, by Thy will:
     So far I have followed, Lord, and wondered still.

     The breeze from the enbalmed land
     Blows sudden toward the shore,
     And claps my cottage door.
     I hear the signal, Lord--I understand.
     The night at Thy command
     Comes.  I will eat and sleep and will not question more.

*****

It is not at all a strong thing to put one’s reliance upon logic; and
our own logic particularly, for it is generally wrong. We never know
where we are to end if once we begin following words or doctors. There
is an upright stock in a man’s own heart that is trustier than any
syllogism; and the eyes, and the sympathies, and appetites know a thing
or two that have never yet been stated in controversy. Reasons are as
plentiful as blackberries; and, like fisticuffs, they serve impartially
with all sides. Doctrines do not stand or fall by their proofs, and
are only logical in so far as they are cleverly put. An able
controversialist no more than an able general demonstrates the justice
of his cause.

*****

To any man there may come at times a consciousness that there blows,
through all the articulations of his body, the wind of a spirit not
wholly his; that his mind rebels; that another girds him and carries him
whither he would not.

*****

     The child, the seed, the grain of corn,
     The acorn on the hill,
     Each for some separate end is born
     In season fit, and still
     Each must in strength arise to work the almighty will.

     So from the hearth the children flee,
     By that almighty hand
     Austerely led; so one by sea
     Goes forth, and one by land;
     Nor aught of all man’s sons escapes from that command.

     So from the sally each obeys
     The unseen almighty nod;
     So till the ending all their ways
     Blindfolded loth have trod:
     Nor knew their task at all, but were the tools of God.

*****

A few restrictions, indeed, remain to influence the followers of
individual branches of study. The DIVINITY, for example, must be
an avowed believer; and as this, in the present day, is unhappily
considered by many as a confession of weakness, he is fain to choose one
of two ways of gilding the distasteful orthodox bolus. Some swallow it
in a thin jelly of metaphysics; for it is even a credit to believe in
God on the evidence of some crack-jaw philosopher, although it is a
decided slur to believe in Him on His own authority. Others again (and
this we think the worst method), finding German grammar a somewhat dry
morsel, run their own little heresy as a proof of independence; and
deny one of the cardinal doctrines that they may hold the others without
being laughed at.

*****

In particular, I heard of clergymen who were employing their time in
explaining to a delighted audience the physics of the Second Coming. It
is not very likely any of us will be asked to help. If we were, it is
likely we should receive instructions for the occasion, and that on more
reliable authority. And so I can only figure to myself a congregation
truly curious in such flights of theological fancy, as one of veteran
and accomplished saints, who have fought the good fight to an end and
outlived all worldly passion, and are to be regarded rather as a part of
the Church Triumphant than the poor, imperfect company on earth.

*****

The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together. It is the common
and the god-like law of life. The browsers, the biters, the barkers,
the hairy coats of field and forest, the squirrel in the oak, the
thousand-footed creeper in the dust, as they share with us the gift of
life, share with us the love of an ideal; strive like us--like us are
tempted to grow weary of the struggle--to do well; like us receive at
times unmerited refreshment, visitings of support, returns of courage;
and are condemned like us to be crucified between that double law of the
members and the will. Are they like us, I wonder, in the timid hope of
some reward, some sugar with the drug? Do they, too, stand aghast at
unrewarded virtues, at the sufferings of those whom, in our partiality,
we take to be just, and the prosperity of such as in our blindness we
call wicked?

*****

But to be a true disciple is to think of the same things as our prophet,
and to think of different things in the same order. To be of the same
mind with another is to see all things in the same perspective; it is
not to agree in a few indifferent matters near at hand and not much
debated; it is to follow him in his farthest flights, to see the force
of his hyperboles, to stand so exactly in the centre of his vision that
whatever he may express, your eyes will light at once on the original,
that whatever he may see to declare, your mind will at once accept....

Now, every now and then, and indeed surprisingly often, Christ finds
a word that transcends all commonplace morality; every now and then
He quits the beaten track to pioneer the unexpressed, and throws out a
pregnant and magnanimous hyperbole; for it is only by some bold poetry
of thought that men can be strung up above the level of everyday
conceptions to take a broader look upon experience or accept some higher
principle of conduct. To a man who is of the same mind that was in
Christ, who stand at some centre not too far from His, and looks at the
world and conduct from some not dissimilar or, at least, not opposing
attitude--or, shortly, to a man who is of Christ’s philosophy--every
such saying should come home with a thrill of joy and corroboration; he
should feel each one below his feet as another sure foundation in
the flux of time and chance; each should be another proof that in
the torrent of the years and generations, where doctrines and great
armaments and empires are swept away and swallowed, he stands immovable,
holding by the eternal stars.

*****

Those who play by rule will never be more than tolerable players; and
you and I would like to play our game in life to the noblest and the
most divine advantage....For no definite precept can be more than an
illustration, though its truth were resplendent like the sun, and it was
announced from heaven by the voice of God. And life is so intricate and
changing, that perhaps not twenty times, or perhaps not twice in the
ages, shall we find that nice consent of circumstances to which alone it
can apply....

It is to keep a man awake, to keep him alive to his own soul and
its fixed design of righteousness, that the better part of moral and
religious education is directed; not only that of words and doctors, but
the sharp ferule of calamity under which we are all God’s scholars till
we die. If, as teachers, we are to say anything to the purpose, we must
say what will remind the pupil of his soul; we must speak that soul’s
dialect; we must talk of life and conduct as his soul would have him
think of them. If, from some conformity between us and the pupil,
or perhaps among all men, we do in truth speak in such a dialect and
express such views, beyond question we shall touch in him a spring;
beyond question he will recognise the dialect as one that he himself
has spoken in his better hours; beyond question he will cry, ‘I had
forgotten, but now I remember; I too have eyes, and I had forgot to use
them! I too have a soul of my own, arrogantly upright, and to that I
will listen and conform.’ In short, say to him anything that he has once
thought, or been upon the point of thinking, or show him any view of
life that he has once clearly seen, or been on the point of clearly
seeing; and you have done your part and may leave him to complete the
education for himself.

*****

God, if there be any God, speaks daily in a new language, by the tongues
of men; the thoughts and habits of each fresh generation and each
new-coined spirit throw another light upon the universe, and contain
another commentary on the printed Bibles; every scruple, every true
dissent, every glimpse of something new, is a letter of God’s alphabet;
and though there is a grave responsibility for all who speak, is there
none for those who unrighteously keep silent and conform? Is not that
also to conceal and cloak God’s counsel?

*****

Mankind is not only the whole in general, but every one in particular.
Every man or woman is one of mankind’s dear possessions; to his or her
just brain, and kind heart, and active hands, mankind intrusts some of
its hopes for the future; he or she is a possible wellspring of good
acts and source of blessings to the race.

*****

Morals are a personal affair; in the war of righteousness every man
fights for his own hand; all the six hundred precepts of the Mishna
cannot shake my private judgment; my magistracy of myself is an
indefeasible charge, and my decisions absolute for the time and case.
The moralist is not a judge of appeal, but an advocate who pleads at my
tribunal. He has to show not the law, but that the law applies. Can he
convince me? then he gains the cause. And thus you find Christ giving
various counsels to varying people, and often jealously careful to avoid
definite precept. Is He asked, for example, to divide a heritage? He
refuses; and the best advice that He will offer is but a paraphrase of
the tenth commandment which figures so strangely among the rest. Take
heed, and beware of covetousness. If you complain that this is vague, I
have failed to carry you along with me in my argument. For no definite
precept can be more than an illustration, though its truth were
resplendent like the sun, and it was announced from heaven by the voice
of God. And life is so intricate and changing, that perhaps not twenty
times, or perhaps not twice in the ages, shall we find that nice consent
of circumstances to which alone it can apply.

*****

But if it is righteousness thus to fuse together our divisive impulses
and march with one mind through life, there is plainly one thing more
unrighteous than all others, and one declension which is irretrievable
and draws on the rest. And this is to lose consciousness of oneself. In
the best of times, it is but by flashes, when our whole nature is clear,
strong, and conscious, and events conspire to leave us free, that we
enjoy communion with our soul. At the worst we are so fallen and passive
that we may say shortly we have none. An arctic torpor seizes upon men.
Although built of nerves, and set adrift in a stimulating world,
they develop a tendency to go bodily to sleep; consciousness becomes
engrossed among the reflex and mechanical parts of life; and soon loses
both the will and power to look higher considerations in the face. This
is ruin; this is the last failure in life; this is temporal damnation,
damnation on the spot and without the form of judgment: ‘What shall it
profit a man if he gain the whole world and LOSE HIMSELF?’

*****

To ask to see some fruit of our endeavour is but a transcendental way
of serving for reward; and what we take to be contempt of self is only
greed of hire.

*****

We are are all such as He was--the inheritors of sin; we must all bear
and expiate a past which was not ours; there is in all of us--ay, even
in me--a sparkle of the divine. Like Him, we must endure for a little
while, until morning returns, bringing peace.

*****

A human truth, which is always very much a lie, hides as much of life
as it displays. It is men who hold another truth, or, as it seems to
us, perhaps, a dangerous lie, who can extend our restricted field of
knowledge, and rouse our drowsy consciences.

*****

Truth of intercourse is something more difficult than to refrain from
open lies. It is possible to avoid falsehood and yet not tell the truth.
It is not enough to answer formal questions. To reach the truth by yea
and nay communications implies a questioner with a share of inspiration,
such as is often found in mutual love. YEA and NAY mean nothing; the
meaning must have been related in the question. Many Words are often
necessary to convey a very simple statement; for in this sort of
exercise we never hit the gold; the most that we can hope is by many
arrows, more or less far off on different sides, to indicate, in the
course of time, for what target we are aiming, and after an hour’s
talk, back and forward, to convey the purport of a single principle or a
single thought.

*****

The cruellist lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat in a
room for hours and not opened his teeth, and yet come out of that room a
disloyal friend or a vile calumniator. And how many loves have perished
because, from pride, or spite, or diffidence, or that unmanly shame
which withholds a man from daring to betray emotion, a lover, at the
critical point of the relation, has but hung his head and held his
tongue? And, again, a lie may be told by a truth, or a truth conveyed
through a lie. Truth to facts is not always truth to sentiment; and
part of the truth, as often happens in answer to a question, may be the
foulest calumny. A fact may be an exception; but the feeling is the law,
and it is that which you must neither garble nor belie. The whole tenor
of a conversation is a part of the meaning of each separate statement;
the beginning and the end define and travesty the intermediate
conversation. You never speak to God; you address a fellow-man, full of
his own tempers: and to tell truth, rightly understood, is not to state
the true facts, but to convey a true impression; truth in spirit, not
truth to letter, is the true veracity.

*****

He talked for the pleasure of airing himself. He was essentially glib,
as becomes the young advocate, and essentially careless of the truth,
which is the mark of the young ass; and so he talked at random. There
was no particular bias, but that one which is indigenous and universal,
to flatter himself, and to please and interest the present friend.

*****

How wholly we all lie at the mercy of a single prater, not needfully
with any malign purpose! And if a man but talk of himself in the right
spirit, refers to his virtuous actions by the way, and never applies
to them the name of virtues, how easily his evidence is accepted in the
court of public opinion!

*****

In one word, it must always be foul to tell what is false; and it can
never be safe to suppress what is true.

*****

Conclusions, indeed, are not often reached by talk any more than by
private thinking. That is not the profit. The profit is in the exercise,
and above all in the experience; for when we reason at large on any
subject, we review our state and history in life. From time to time,
however, and specially, I think, in talking art, talk becomes effective,
conquering like war, widening the boundaries of knowledge like an
exploration.

*****

Natural talk, like ploughing, should turn up a large surface of life,
rather than dig mines into geological strata. Masses of experience,
anecdote, incident, cross-lights, quotation, historical instances, the
whole flotsam and jetsam of two minds forced in and in upon the matter
in hand from every point of the compass, and from every degree of mental
elevation and abasement--these are the material with which talk is
fortified, the food on which the talkers thrive. Such argument as is
proper to the exercise should still be brief and seizing. Talk should
proceed by instances; by the apposite, not the expository. It should
keep close along the lines of humanity, near the bosoms and businesses
of men, at the level where history, fiction, and experience intersect
and illuminate each other.

*****

There can be no fairer ambition than to excel in talk; to be affable,
gay, ready, clear and welcome; to have a fact, a thought, or an
illustration, pat to every subject; and not only to cheer the flight of
time among our intimates, but bear our part in that great international
congress, always sitting, where public wrongs are first declared, public
errors first corrected, and the course of public opinion shaped, day by
day, a little nearer to the right. No measure comes before Parliament
but it has been long ago prepared by the grand jury of the talkers; no
book is written that has not been largely composed by their assistance.
Literature in many of its branches is no other than the shadow of
good talk; but the imitation falls far short of the original in life,
freedom, and effect. There are always two to a talk, giving and
taking, comparing experience and according conclusions. Talk is fluid,
tentative, continually ‘in further search and progress’; while written
words remain fixed, become idols even to the writer, found wooden
dogmatisms, and preserve flies of obvious error in the amber of the
truth. Last and chief, while literature, gagged with linsey-woolsey, can
only deal with a fraction of the life of man, talk goes fancy free and
may call a spade a spade. Talk has none of the freezing immunities of
the pulpit. It cannot, even if it would, become merely aesthetic or
merely classical like literature. A jest intervenes, the solemn humbug
is dissolved in laughter, and speech runs forth out of the contemporary
groove into the open fields of nature, cheery and cheering, like
schoolboys out of school. And it is in talk alone that we can learn our
period and ourselves. In short, the first duty of a man is to speak;
that is his chief business in this world; and talk, which is the
harmonious speech of two or more, is by far the most accessible of
pleasures. It costs nothing in money; it is all profit; it completes our
education, founds and fosters our friendships, and can be enjoyed at any
age and in almost any state of health.

*****

And it happens that literature is, in some ways, but an indifferent
means to such an end. Language is but a poor bull’s-eye lantern
wherewith to show off the vast cathedral of the world; and yet a
particular thing once said in words is so definite and memorable, that
it makes us forget the absence of the many which remain unexpressed;
like a bright window in a distant view, which dazzles and confuses our
sight of its surroundings. There are not words enough in all Shakespeare
to express the merest fraction of a man’s experience in an hour. The
speed of the eyesight and the hearing, and the continual industry of the
mind, produce; in ten minutes, what it would require a laborious volume
to shadow forth by comparisons and roundabout approaches. If verbal
logic were sufficient, life would be as plain sailing as a piece of
Euclid. But, as a matter of fact, we make a travesty of the simplest
process of thought when we put it into words; for the words are all
coloured and forsworn, apply inaccurately, and bring with them, from
former uses, ideas of praise and blame that have nothing to do with the
question in hand. So we must always see to it nearly, that we judge by
the realities of life and not by the partial terms that represent them
in man’s speech; and at times of choice, we must leave words upon one
side, and act upon those brute convictions, unexpressed and perhaps
inexpressible, which cannot be flourished in an argument, but which are
truly the sum and fruit of our experience. Words are for communication,
not for judgment. This is what every thoughtful man knows for himself,
for only fools and silly schoolmasters push definitions over far into
the domain of conduct; and the majority of women, not learned in these
scholastic refinements, live all-of-a-piece and unconsciously, as a tree
grows, without caring to put a name upon their acts or motives.

*****

The correction of silence is what kills; when you know you have
transgressed, and your friend says nothing and avoids your eye. If a man
were made of gutta-percha, his heart would quail at such a moment.
But when the word is out, the worst is over; and a fellow with any
good-humour at all may pass through a perfect hail of witty criticism,
every bare place on his soul hit to the quick with a shrewd missile, and
reappear, as if after a dive, tingling with a fine moral reaction, and
ready, with a shrinking readiness, one-third loath, for a repetition of
the discipline.

*****

All natural talk is a festival of ostentation; and by the laws of the
game each accepts and fans the vanity of the other. It is from that
reason that we venture to lay ourselves so open, that we dare to be so
warmly eloquent, and that we swell in each other’s eyes to such a vast
proportion. For talkers, once launched, begin to overflow the limits
of their ordinary selves, tower up to the height of their secret
pretensions, and give themselves out for the heroes, brave, pious,
musical, and wise, that in their most shining moments they aspire to be.
So they weave for themselves with words and for a while inhabit a palace
of delights, temple at once and theatre, where they fill the round of
the world’s dignities, and feast with the gods, exulting in Kudos. And
when the talk is over, each goes his way, still flushed with vanity
and admiration, still trailing clouds of glory; each declines from the
height of his ideal orgie, not in a moment, but by slow declension.

*****

No man was ever so poor that he could express all he has in him
by words, looks, or actions; his true knowledge is eternally
incommunicable, for it is a knowledge of himself; and his best wisdom
comes to him by no process of the mind, but in a supreme self-dictation,
which keeps varying from hour to hour in its dictates with the variation
of events and circumstances.

*****

Overmastering pain--the most deadly and tragical element in life--alas!
pain has its own way with all of us; it breaks in, a rude visitant, upon
the fairy garden where the child wanders in a dream, no less surely
than it rules upon the field of battle, or sends the immortal war-god
whimpering to his father; and innocence, no more than philosophy, can
protect us from this sting.

*****

Where did you hear that it was easy to be honest? Do you find that in
your Bible? Easy? It is easy to be an ass and follow the multitude like
a blind, besotted bull in a stampede; and that, I am well aware, is
what you and Mrs. Grundy mean by being honest. But it will not bear the
stress of time nor the scrutiny of conscience.

*****

Though I have all my life been eager for legitimate distinction, I can
lay my hand upon my heart, at the end of my career, and declare there is
not one--no, nor yet life itself--which is worth acquiring or preserving
at the slightest cost of dignity.

*****

For surely, at this time of the day in the nineteenth century, there is
nothing that an honest man should fear more timorously than getting and
spending more than he deserves.

*****

It remains to be seen, by each man who would live a true life to himself
and not a merely specious life to society, how many luxuries he truly
wants and to how many he merely submits as to a social propriety; and
all these last he will immediately forswear. Let him do this, and he
will be surprised to find how little money it requires to keep him in
complete contentment and activity of mind and senses. Life at any level
among the easy classes is conceived upon a principle of rivalry, where
each man and each household must ape the tastes and emulate the display
of others. One is delicate in eating, another in wine, a third in
furniture or works of art or dress; and I, who care nothing for any of
these refinements, who am perhaps a plain athletic creature and love
exercise, beef, beer, flannel-shirts, and a camp bed, am yet called upon
to assimilate all these other tastes and make these foreign occasions
of expenditure my own. It may be cynical; I am sure I will be told it is
selfish; but I will spend my money as I please and for my own intimate
personal gratification, and should count myself a nincompoop indeed to
lay out the colour of a halfpenny on any fancied social decency or duty.
I shall not wear gloves unless my hands are cold, or unless I am born
with a delight in them. Dress is my own affair, and that of one other
in the world; that, in fact, and for an obvious reason, of any woman who
shall chance to be in love with me. I shall lodge where I have a mind.
If I do not ask society to live with me, they must be silent; and even
if I do, they have no further right but to refuse the invitation.

*****

To a gentleman is to be one all the world over, and in every relation
and grade of society. It is a high calling, to which a man must first be
born, and then devote himself for life. And, unhappily, the manners of
a certain so-called upper grade have a kind of currency, and meet with
a certain external acceptation throughout all the others, and this tends
to keep us well satisfied with slight acquirements and the amateurish
accomplishments of a clique. But manners, like art, should be human and
central.

*****

Respectability is a very thing in its way, but it does not rise superior
to all considerations. I would not for a moment venture to hint that it
was a matter of taste; but I think I will go as far as this: that if
a position is admittedly unkind, uncomfortable, unnecessary, and
superfluously useless, although it were as respectable as the Church of
England, the sooner a man is out of it, the better for himself and all
concerned.

*****

After all, I thought, our satirist has just gone far enough into his
neighbours to find that the outside is false, without caring to go
farther and discover what is really true. He is content to find that
things are not what they seem, and broadly generalises from it that they
do not exist at all. He sees our virtues are not what they pretend they
are; and, on the strength of that, he denies us the possession of virtue
altogether. He has learned the first lesson, that no man is wholly good;
but he has not even suspected that there is another equally true, to
wit, that no man is wholly bad.

*****

Or take the case of men of letters. Every piece of work which is not as
good as you can make it, which you have palmed off imperfect, meagrely
thought, niggardly in execution, upon mankind, who is your paymaster
on parole, and in a sense your pupil, every hasty or slovenly or untrue
performance, should rise up against you in the court of your own heart
and condemn you for a thief.

*****

Sympathy is a thing to be encouraged, apart from humane considerations,
because it supplies us with the materials for wisdom. It is probably
more instructive to entertain a sneaking kindness for any unpopular
person.... than to give way to perfect raptures of moral indignation
against his abstract vices.

*****

In the best fabric of duplicity there is some weak point, if you can
strike it, which will loosen all.

*****

It is at best but a pettifogging, pickthank business to decompose
actions into little personal motives, and explain heroism away. The
Abstract Bagman will grow like an Admiral at heart, not by ungrateful
carping, but in a heat of admiration.

*****

After an hospital, what uglier piece is there in civilisation than a
court of law? Hither come envy, malice, and all uncharitableness to
wrestle it out in public tourney; crimes, broken fortunes, severed
households, the knave and his victim, gravitate to this low building
with the arcade. To how many has not St. Giles’s bell told the first
hour after ruin? I think I see them pause to count the strokes and
wander on again into the moving High Street, stunned and sick at heart.

*****

There are two things that men should never weary of--goodness and
humility.

*****

It is not enough to have earned our livelihood. Either the earning
itself should have been serviceable to mankind, or something else must
follow. To live is sometimes very difficult, but it is never meritorious
in itself; and we must have a reason to allege to our own conscience
why we should continue to exist upon this crowded earth. If Thoreau
had simply dwelt in his house at Walden, a lover of trees, birds, and
fishes, and the open air and virtue, a reader of wise books, an idle,
selfish self-improver, he would have managed to cheat Admetus, but, to
cling to metaphor, the devil would have had him in the end. Those who
can avoid toil altogether and dwell in the Arcadia of private means, and
even those who can, by abstinence, reduce the necessary amount of it
to some six weeks a year, having the more liberty, have only the higher
moral obligation to be up and doing in the interest of man.

*****

A man may have done well for years, and then he may fail; he will hear
of his failure. Or he may have done well for years, and still do well,
but the critic may have tired of praising him, or there may have sprung
up some new idol of the instant, some ‘dust a little gilt,’ to whom they
now prefer to offer sacrifice. Here is the obverse and the reverse of
that empty and ugly thing called popularity. Will any man suppose it
worth gaining?

*****

Among sayings that have a currency in spite of being wholly false upon
the face of them for the sake of a half-truth upon another subject
which is accidentally combined with the error, one of the grossest and
broadest conveys the monstrous proposition that it is easy to tell the
truth and hard to tell a lie. I wish heartily it were. But the truth is
one; it has first to be discovered, then justly and exactly uttered.

*****

For such things as honour and love and faith are not only nobler than
food and drink, but indeed I think that we desire them more, and suffer
more sharply for their absence.

*****

There is a strong feeling in favour of cowardly and prudential proverbs.
The sentiments of a man while he is full of ardour and hope are to be
received, it is supposed, with some qualification. But when the same
person has ignominiously failed and begins to eat up his words, he
should be listened to like an oracle. Most of our pocket wisdom is
conceived for the use of mediocre people, to discourage them from
ambitious attempts, and generally console them in their mediocrity. And
since mediocre people constitute the bulk of humanity, this is no
doubt very properly so. But it does not follow that the one sort of
proposition is any less true than the other, or that Icarus is not to
be more praised, and perhaps more envied, than Mr. Samuel Budgett the
successful merchant.

*****

‘You know it very well, it cannot in any way help that you should brood
upon it, and I sometimes wonder whether you and I--who are a pair of
sentimentalists--are quite good judges of plain men.’

*****

For, after all, we are vessels of a very limited content. Not all men
can read all books; it is only in a chosen few that any man will find
his appointed food; and the fittest lessons are the most, palatable, and
make themselves welcome to the mind.

*****

It is all very fine to talk about tramps and morality. Six hours of
police surveillance (such as I have had) or one brutal rejection from an
inn-door change your views upon the subject like a course of lectures.
As long as you keep in the upper regions, with all the world bowing to
you as you go, social arrangements have a very handsome air; but once
get under the wheels and you wish society were at the devil. I will give
most respectable men a fortnight of such a life, and then I will offer
them twopence for what remains of their morality.

*****

I hate cynicism a great deal worse than I do the devil; unless, perhaps,
the two were the same thing? And yet ‘tis a good tonic; the cold tub and
bath-towel of the sentiments; and positively necessary to life in cases
of advanced sensibility.

*****

Most men, finding themselves the authors of their own disgrace, rail the
louder against God or destiny. Most men, when they repent, oblige their
friends to share the bitterness of that repentance.

*****

Delay, they say, begetteth peril; but it is rather this itch of doing
that undoes men.

*****

Every man has a sane spot somewhere.

*****

That is never a bad wind that blows where we want to go.

*****

It is a great thing if you can persuade people that they are somehow or
other partakers in a mystery. It makes them feel bigger.

*****

But it is an evil age for the gypsily inclined among men. He who can sit
squarest on a three-legged stool, he it is who has the wealth and glory.

*****

For truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the
enemy.

*****

But O, what a cruel thing is a farce to those engaged in it!

*****

It is not always the most faithful believer who makes the cunningest
apostle.

*****

Vanity dies hard; in some obstinate cases it outlives the man.

*****

A man may live in dreams, and yet be unprepared for their realisation.

*****

‘Be soople, Davie, in things immaterial.’

*****

No class of man is altogether bad; but each has its own faults and
virtues.

*****

But it is odd enough, the very women who profess most contempt for
mankind as a sex seem to find even its ugliest particulars rather lively
and high-minded in their own sons.

*****

To cling to what is left of any damaged quality is virtue in the man.

*****

But we have no bravery nowadays, and, even in books, must all pretend to
be as dull and foolish as our neighbours.

*****

It always warms a man to see a woman brave.

*****

Condescension is an excellent thing, but it is strange how one-sided the
pleasure of it is!

*****

Some strand of our own misdoing is involved in every quarrel.

*****

There was never an ill thing made better by meddling.

*****

Let any man speak long enough, he will get believers.

*****

Every one lives by selling something, whatever be his right to it.

*****

A man dissatisfied with endeavour is a man tempted to sadness.

*****

Drama is the poetry of conduct, romance the poetry of circumstance.

*****

It is one of the most common forms of depreciation to throw cold water
on the whole by adroit over-commendation of a part, since everything
worth judging, whether it be a man, a work of art, or only a fine city,
must be judged upon its merits as a whole.

*****

I wonder, would a negative be found enticing? for, from the negative
point of view, I flatter myself this volume has a certain stamp.
Although it runs to considerably over a hundred pages, it contains not
a single reference to the imbecility of God’s universe, nor so much as a
single hint that I could have made a better one myself--I really do not
know where my head can have been.

*****

It’s deadly commonplace, but, after all, the commonplaces are the great
poetic truths.

*****

Those who try to be artists use, time after time, the matter of their
recollections, setting and resetting little coloured memories of men and
scenes, rigging up (it may be) some especial friend in the attire of a
buccaneer, and decreeing armies to manoeuvre, or murder to be done, on
the playground of their youth. But the memories are a fairy gift which
cannot be worn out in using. After a dozen services in various tales,
the little sunbright pictures of the past still shine in the mind’s eye
with not a lineament defaced, not a tint impaired. GLUCK UND UNGLUCK
WIRD GESANG, if Goethe pleases; yet only by endless avatars, the
original re-embodying after each. So that a writer, in time, begins to
wonder at the perdurable life of these impressions; begins, perhaps,
to fancy that he wrongs them when he weaves them in with fiction; and
looking back on them with ever-growing kindness, puts them at last,
substantive jewels, in a setting of their own.

*****

Place them in a hospital, put them in a jail in yellow overalls, do what
you will, young Jessamy finds young Jenny.

*****

‘You fret against the common law,’ I said. ‘You rebel against the
voice of God, which He has made so winning to convince, so imperious
to command. Hear it, and how it speaks between us! Your hand clings to
mine, your heart leaps at my touch, the unknown elements of which we
are compounded awake and run together at a look; the clay of the earth
remembers its independent life, and yearns to join us; we are drawn
together as the stars are turned about in space, or as the tides ebb and
flow; by things older and greater than we ourselves.’

*****

‘Olalla,’ I said, ‘the soul and the body are one, and mostly so in love.
What the body chooses, the soul loves; where the body clings, the
soul cleaves; body for body, soul to soul, they come together at God’s
signal; and the lower part (if we can call aught low) is only the
footstool and foundation of the highest.’

*****

She sent me away, and yet I had but to call upon her name and she came
to me. These were but the weaknesses of girls, from which even she, the
strangest of her sex, was not exempted.

*****

For even in love there are unlovely humours; ambiguous acts,
unpardonable words, may yet have sprung from a kind sentiment. If
the injured one could read your heart, you may be sure that he would
understand and pardon; but, alas! the heart cannot be shown--it has to
be demonstrated in words.

*****

There is no greater wonder than the way the face of a young woman fits
in a man’s mind, and stays there, and he could never tell you why; it
just seems it was the thing he wanted.

*****

There are many matters in which you may waylay Destiny, and bid him
stand and deliver. Hard work, high thinking, adventurous excitement,
and a great deal more that forms a part of this or the other person’s
spiritual bill of fare, are within the reach of almost any one who can
dare a little and be patient. But it is by no means in the way of every
one to fall in love....A wet rag goes safely by the fire; and if a man
is blind, he cannot expect to be much impressed by romantic scenery.
Apart from all this, many lovable people miss each other in the world,
or meet under some unfavourable star.

*****

To deal plainly, if they only married when they fell in love, most
people would die unwed; and among the others, there would be not a
few tumultuous households. The Lion is the King of Beasts, but he is
scarcely suitable for a domestic pet. In the same way, I suspect love
is rather too violent a passion to make, in all cases, a good domestic
sentiment. Like other violent excitements, it throws up not only what is
best, but what is worst and smallest, in men’s characters. Just as
some people are malicious in drink, or brawling and virulent under the
influence of religious feeling, some are moody, jealous, and exacting
when they are in love, who are honest, downright, good-hearted fellows
enough in the everyday affairs and humours of the world.

*****

There is only one event in life which really astonishes a man and
startles him out of his prepared opinions. Everything else befalls him
very much as he expected. Event succeeds to event, with an agreeable
variety indeed, but with little that is either startling or intense;
they form together no more than a sort of background, or running
accompaniment to the man’s own reflections; and he falls naturally into
a cool, curious, and smiling habit of mind, and builds himself up in a
conception of life which expects to-morrow to be after the pattern of
to-day and yesterday. He may be accustomed to the vagaries of his friend
and acquaintances under the influence of love. He may sometime look
forward to it for himself with an incomprehensible expectation. But it
is a subject in which neither intuition nor the behaviour of others will
help the philosopher to the truth. There is probably nothing rightly
thought or rightly written on this matter of love that is not a piece of
the person’s experience.

*****

It is the property of things seen for the first time, or for the first
time after long, like the flowers in spring, to re-awaken in us the
sharp edge of sense, and that impression of mystic strangeness which
otherwise passes out of life with the coming years; but the sight of a
loved face is what renews a man’s character from the fountain upwards.

*****

Nothing is given for nothing in this world; there can be no true love,
even on your own side, without devotion; devotion is the exercise of
love, by which it grows; but if you will give enough of that, if you
will pay the price in a sufficient ‘amount of what you call life,’ why
then, indeed, whether with wife or comrade, you may have months and even
years of such easy, natural, pleasurable, and yet improving intercourse
as shall make time a moment and kindness a delight.

*****

Love is not blind, nor yet forgiving. ‘O yes, believe me,’ as the song
says, ‘Love has eyes!’ The nearer the intimacy, the more cuttingly do
we feel the unworthiness of those we love; and because you love one, and
would die for that love to-morrow, you have not forgiven, and you never
will forgive that friend’s misconduct. If you want a person’s faults, go
to those who love him. They will not tell you, but they know. And herein
lies the magnanimous courage of love, that it endures this knowledge
without change.

*****

Certainly, whatever it may be with regard to the world at large, this
idea of beneficent pleasure is true as between the sweethearts. To do
good and communicate is the lover’s grand intention. It is the happiness
of the other that makes his own most intense gratification. It is not
possible to disentangle the different emotions, the pride, humility,
pity, and passion, which are excited by a look of happy love or an
unexpected caress. To make one’s self beautiful, to dress the hair, to
excel in talk, to do anything and all things that puff out the character
and attributes and make them imposing in the eyes of others, is not only
to magnify one’s self, but to offer the most delicate homage at the same
time. And it is in this latter intention that they are done by lovers,
for the essence of love is kindness; and, indeed, it may be best defined
as passionate kindness; kindness, so to speak, run mad and become
importunate and violent.

*****

What sound is so full of music as one’s own name uttered for the first
time in the voice of her we love!

*****

We make love, and thereby ourselves fall the deeper in it. It is with
the heart only that one captures a heart.

*****

O, have it your own way; I am too old a hand to argue with young
gentlemen who choose to fancy themselves in love; I have too much
experience, thank you.

*****

And love, considered as a spectacle, must have attractions for many who
are not of the confraternity. The sentimental old maid is a commonplace
of the novelists; and he must be rather a poor sort of human being, to
be sure, who can look on at this pretty madness without indulgence and
sympathy. For nature commends itself to people with a most insinuating
art; the busiest is now and again arrested by a great sunset; and you
may be as pacific or as cold-blooded as you will, but you cannot help
some emotion when you read of well-disputed battles, or meet a pair of
lovers in the lane.

*****

Jealousy, at any rate, is one of the consequences of love; you may like
it or not, at pleasure; but there it is.

*****

With our chosen friends, on the other hand, and still more between
lovers (for mutual understanding is love’s essence), the truth is easily
indicated by the one and aptly comprehended by the other. A hint taken,
a look understood, conveys the gist of long and delicate explanations;
and where the life is known even YEA and NAY become luminous. In the
closest of all relations--that of a love well founded and equally
shared-speech is half discarded, like a roundabout, infantile process
or a ceremony of formal etiquette; and the two communicate directly by
their presences, and with few looks and fewer words contrive to share
their good and evil and uphold each other’s hearts in joy.

*****

And yet even while I was exulting in my solitude I became aware of a
strange lack. I wished a companion to lie near me in the starlight,
silent and not moving, but ever within touch. For there is a fellowship
more quiet even than solitude, and which, rightly understood, is
solitude made perfect. And to live out of doors with the woman a man
loves is of all lives the most complete and free.

*****

The flower of the hedgerow and the star of heaven satisfy and delight
us: how much more the look of the exquisite being who was created to
bear and rear, to madden and rejoice mankind!

*****

So strangely are we built: so much more strong is the love of woman than
the mere love of life.

*****

You think that pity--and the kindred sentiments-have the greatest power
upon the heart. I think more nobly of women. To my view, the man
they love will first of all command their respect; he will be
steadfast-proud, if you please; dry-possibly-but of all things
steadfast. They will look at him in doubt; at last they will see that
stern face which he presents to all of the rest of the world soften
to them alone. First, trust, I say. It is so that a woman loves who is
worthy of heroes.

*****

The sex likes to pick up knowledge and yet preserve its superiority.
It is good policy, and almost necessary in the circumstances. If a
man finds a woman admires him, were it only for his acquaintance with
geography, he will begin at once to build upon the admiration. It is
only by unintermittent snubbing that the pretty ones can keep us in
our place. Men, as Miss Howe or Miss Harlowe would have said, ‘are such
encroachers.’ For my part, I am body and soul with the women; and after
a well-married couple, there is nothing so beautiful in the world as
the myth of the divine huntress. It is no use for a man to take to the
woods; we know him; Anthony tried the same thing long ago, and had a
pitiful time of it by all accounts. But there is this about some women,
which overtops the best gymnosophist among men, that they suffice
themselves, and can walk in a high and cold zone without the countenance
of any trousered being. I declare, although the reverse of a professed
ascetic, I am more obliged to women for this ideal than I should be to
the majority of them, or indeed to any but one, for a spontaneous kiss.
There is nothing so encouraging as the spectacle of self-sufficiency.
And when I think of the slim and lovely maidens, running the woods
all night to the note of Diana’s horn; moving among the old oaks, as
fancy-free as they; things of the forest and the starlight, not touched
by the commotion of man’s hot and turbid life-although there are plenty
other ideals that I should prefer--I find my heart beat at the thought
of this one. ‘Tis to fail in life, but to fail with what a grace!
That is not lost which is not regretted. And where--here slips out the
male--where would be much of the glory of inspiring love, if there were
no contempt to overcome?

*****

The drawing-room is, indeed, an artificial place; it is so by our choice
and for our sins. The subjection of women; the ideal imposed upon them
from the cradle, and worn, like a hair-shirt, with so much constancy;
their motherly, superior tenderness to man’s vanity and self-importance;
their managing arts-the arts of a civilised slave among good-natured
barbarians-are all painful ingredients and all help to falsify
relations. It is not till we get clear of that amusing artificial scene
that genuine relations are founded, or ideas honestly compared. In
the garden, on the road or the hillside, or TETE-A-TETE and apart from
interruptions, occasions arise when we may learn much from any single
woman; and nowhere more often than in married life. Marriage is one long
conversation, chequered by disputes. The disputes are valueless; they
but ingrain the difference; the heroic heart of woman prompting her
at once to nail her colours to the mast. But in the intervals, almost
unconsciously and with no desire to shine, the whole material of life is
turned over and over, ideas are struck out and shared, the two persons
more and more adapt their notions one to suit the other, and in process
of time, without sound of trumpet, they conduct each other into new
worlds of thought.

*****

Kirstie was now over fifty, and might have sat to a sculptor. Long of
limb, and still light of foot, deep-breasted, robust-loined, her
golden hair not yet mingled with any trace of silver, the years had
but caressed and embellished her. By the lines of a rich and vigorous
maternity, she seemed destined to be the bride of heroes and the mother
of their children.

*****

And lastly, he was dark and she fair, and he was male and she female,
the everlasting fountain of interest.

*****

The effervescency of her passionate and irritable nature rose within
her at times to bursting point. This is the price paid by age for
unseasonable ardours of feeling.

*****

Weir must have supposed his bride to be somewhat suitable; perhaps he
belonged to that class of men who think a weak head the ornament of
women--an opinion invariably punished in this life.

*****

Never ask women folk. They’re bound to answer ‘No.’ God never made the
lass that could resist the temptation.

*****

It is an odd thing how happily two people, if there are two, can live
in a place where they have no acquaintance. I think the spectacle of a
whole life in which you have no part paralyses personal desire. You are
content to become a mere spectator. The baker stands in his door; the
colonel with his three medals goes by to the CAFE at night; the troops
drum and trumpet and man the ramparts as bold as so many lions. It would
task language to say how placidly you behold all this. In a place where
you have taken some root you are provoked out of your indifference; you
have a hand in the game--your friends are fighting with the army. But in
a strange town, not small enough to grow too soon familiar, nor so large
as to have laid itself out for travellers, you stand so far apart from
the business that you positively forget it would be possible to go
nearer; you have so little human interest around you that you do not
remember yourself to be a man.

*****

Pity was her weapon and her weakness. To accept the loved one’s faults,
although it has an air of freedom, is to kiss the chain.

*****

Marriage is a step so grave and decisive that it attracts light-headed,
variable men by its very awfulness. They have been so tried among the
inconstant squalls and currents, so often sailed for islands in the air
or lain becalmed with burning heart, that they will risk all for solid
ground below their feet. Desperate pilots, they run their sea-sick,
weary bark upon the dashing rocks. It seems as if marriage were the
royal road through life, and realised, on the instant, what we have
all dreamed on summer Sundays when the bells ring, or at night when
we cannot sleep for the desire of living. They think it will sober and
change them. Like those who join a brotherhood, they fancy it needs but
an act to be out of the coil and clamour for ever. But this is a wile
of the devil’s. To the end, spring winds will sow disquietude, passing
faces leave a regret behind them, and the whole world keep calling and
calling in their ears. For marriage is like life in this-that it is a
field of battle, and not a bed of roses.

*****

For there is something in marriage so natural and inviting, that the
step has an air of great simplicity and ease; it offers to bury for ever
many aching preoccupations; it is to afford us unfailing and familiar
company through life; it opens up a smiling prospect of the blest
and passive kind of love, rather than the blessing and active; it is
approached not only through the delights of courtship, but by a public
performance and repeated legal signatures. A man naturally thinks it
will go hard within such august circumvallations. And yet there is
probably no other act in a man’s life so hot-headed and foolhardy as
this one of marriage.

*****

Again, when you have married your wife, you would think you were got
upon a hilltop, and might begin to go downward by an easy slope. But you
have only ended courting to begin marriage. Falling in love and winning
love are often difficult tasks to overbearing and rebellious spirits;
but to keep in love is also a business of some importance, to which
both man and wife must bring kindness and goodwill. The true love story
commences at the altar, when there lies before the married pair a most
beautiful contest of wisdom and generosity, and a life-long struggle
towards an unattainable ideal. Unattainable? Ay, surely unattainable,
from the very fact that they are two instead of one.

*****

When the generation is gone, when the play is over, when the thirty
years’ panorama has been withdrawn in tatters from the stage of the
world, we may ask what has become of these great, weighty, and undying
loves and the sweethearts who despised mortal conditions in a fine
credulity; and they can only show us a few songs in a bygone taste, a
few actions worth remembering, and a few children who have retained some
happy stamp from the disposition of their parents.

*****

Hope looks for unqualified success; but Faith counts certainly on
failure, and takes honourable defeat to be a form of victory. In the
first, he expects an angel for a wife; in the last, he knows that she
is like himself--erring, thoughtless, and untrue; but like himself also,
filled with a struggling radiancy of better things, and adorned with
ineffective qualities. You may safely go to school with hope; but, ere
you marry, should have learned the mingled lesson of the world: that
dolls are stuffed with sawdust, and yet are excellent playthings; that
hope and love address themselves to a perfection never realised, and
yet, firmly held, become the salt and staff of life; that you yourself
are compacted of infirmities, perfect, you might say, in imperfections,
and yet you have a something in you lovable and worth preserving; and
that, while the mass of mankind lies under this scurvy condemnation, you
will scarce find one but, by some generous reading, will become to you a
lesson, a model, and a noble spouse through life. So thinking, you
will constantly support your own unworthiness, and easily forgive the
failings of your friend. Nay, you will be wisely glad that you retain
the sense of blemishes; for the faults of married people continually
spur up each of them, hour by hour, to do better and to meet and love
upon a higher ground. And ever, between the failures, there will come
glimpses of kind virtues to encourage and console.

*****

But it is the object of a liberal education not only to obscure the
knowledge of one sex by another, but to magnify the natural differences
between the two. Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but
principally by catchwords; and the little rift between the sexes is
astonishingly widened by simply teaching one set of catchwords to the
girls and another to the boys. To the first, there is shown but a very
small field of experience, and taught a very trenchant principle for
judgment and action; to the other, the world of life is more largely
displayed, and their rule of conduct is proportionally widened. They are
taught to follow different virtues, to hate different vices, to place
their ideal, even for each other, in different achievements. What should
be the result of such a course? When a horse has run away, and the two
flustered people in the gig have each possessed themselves of a rein, we
know the end of that conveyance will be in the ditch. So, when I see a
raw youth and a green girl, fluted and fiddled in a dancing measure into
that most serious contract, and setting out upon life’s journey with
ideas so monstrously divergent, I am not surprised that some make
shipwreck, but that any come to port.

*****

Those who have a few intimates are to be avoided; while those who swim
loose, who have their hat in their hand all along the street, who can
number an infinity of acquaintances, and are not chargeable with any
one friend, promise an easy disposition and no rival to the wife’s
influence. I will not say they are the best of men, but they are
the stuff out of which adroit and capable women manufacture the best
husbands.

*****

A ship captain is a good man to marry if it is a marriage of love, for
absences are a good influence in love, and keep it bright and delicate;
but he is just the worst man if the feeling is more pedestrian, as habit
is too frequently torn open and the solder has never time to set.

*****

A certain sort of talent is almost indispensable for people who would
spend years together and not bore themselves to death. But the talent,
like the agreement, must be for and about life. To dwell happily
together, they should be versed in the niceties of the heart, and born
with a faculty for willing compromise. The woman must be talented as a
woman, and it will not much matter although she is talented in nothing
else. She must know HER METIER DE FEMME, and have a fine touch for the
affections. And it is more important that a person should be a good
gossip, and talk pleasantly and smartly of common friends and the
thousand and one nothings of the day and hour, than that she should
speak with the tongues of men and angels; for a while together by
the fire happens more frequently in marriage than the presence of a
distinguished foreigner to dinner.... You could read Kant by yourself,
if you wanted; but you must share a joke with some one else. You
can forgive people who do not follow you through a philosophical
disquisition; but to find your wife laughing when you had tears in your
eyes, or staring when you were in a fit of laughter, would go some way
towards a dissolution of the marriage.

*****

Now this is where there should be community between man and wife. They
should be agreed on their catchword in FACTS OF RELIGION, OR FACTS
OF SCIENCE, OR SOCIETY, MY DEAR; for without such an agreement all
intercourse is a painful strain upon the mind.... For there are
differences which no habit nor affection can reconcile, and the Bohemian
must not intermarry with the Pharisee. Imagine Consuelo as Mrs. Samuel
Budgett, the wife of the successful merchant! The best of men and the
best of women may sometimes live together all their lives, and, for want
of some consent on fundamental questions, hold each other lost spirits
to the end.

*****

Marriage is of so much use to women, opens out to her so much more of
life, and puts her in the way of so much more freedom and usefulness,
that, whether she marry ill or well, she can hardly miss some benefit.
It is true, however, that some of the merriest and most genuine of women
are old maids; and that those old maids, and wives who are unhappily
married, have often most of the true motherly touch.

*****

The fact is, we are much more afraid of life than our ancestors, and
cannot find it in our hearts either to marry or not to marry. Marriage
is terrifying, but so is a cold and forlorn old age. People who share a
cell in the Bastile, or are thrown together on an uninhabited isle,
if they do not immediately fall to fisticuffs, will find some possible
ground of compromise. They will learn each other’s ways and humours,
so as to know where they must go warily, and where they may lean their
whole weight. The discretion of the first years becomes the settled
habit of the last; and so, with wisdom and patience, two lives may grow
indissolubly into one.

*****

‘Well, an ye like maids so little, y’are true natural man; for God made
them twain by intention, and brought true love into the world, to be
man’s hope and woman’s comfort.’

*****

There are no persons so far away as those who are both married and
estranged, so that they seem out of earshot, or to have no common
tongue.

*****

My idea of man’s chief end was to enrich the world with things of
beauty, and have a fairly good time myself while doing so.

*****

But the gymnast is not my favourite; he has little or no tincture of
the artist in his composition; his soul is small and pedestrian, for
the most part, since his profession makes no call upon it, and does not
accustom him to high ideas. But if a man is only so much of an actor
that he can stumble through a farce, he is made free of a new order of
thoughts. He has something else to think about beside the money-box. He
has a pride of his own, and, what is of far more importance, he has
an aim before him that he can never quite attain. He has gone upon a
pilgrimage that will last him his life long, because there is no end to
it short of perfection. He will better himself a little day by day; or,
even if he has given up the attempt, he will always remember that once
upon a time he had conceived this high ideal, that once upon a time he
fell in love with a star. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost.’ Although
the moon should have nothing to say to Endymion, although he should
settle down with Audrey and feed pigs, do you not think he would move
with a better grace and cherish higher thoughts to the end? The louts he
meets at church never had a fancy above Audrey’s snood; but there is a
reminiscence in Endymion’s heart that, like a spice, keeps it fresh and
haughty.

People do things, and suffer martyrdom, because they have an inclination
that way. The best artist is not the man who fixes his eye on posterity,
but the one who loves the practice of his art. And instead of having a
taste for being successful merchants and retiring at thirty, some people
have a taste for high and what we call heroic forms of excitement.

*****

These are predestined; if a man love the labour of any trade, apart from
any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.

*****

The incommunicable thrill of things, that is the tuning-fork by which
we test the flatness of our art. Here it is that Nature teaches and
condemns, and still spurs us up to further effort and new failure.

*****

To please is to serve; and so far from its being difficult to instruct
while you amuse, it is difficult to do the one thoroughly without the
other.

*****

We shall never learn the affinities of beauty, for they lie too deep in
nature and too far back in the mysterious history of man.

*****

Mirth, lyric mirth, and a vivacious contentment are of the very essence
of the better kind of art.

*****

This is the particular crown and triumph of the artist--not to be true
merely, but to be lovable; not simply to convince, but to enchant.

*****

Life is hard enough for poor mortals, without having it indefinitely
embittered for them by bad art.

*****

So that the first duty of any man who is to write is intellectual.
Designedly or not, he has so far set himself up for a leader in
the minds of men; and he must see that his own mind is kept supple,
charitable, and bright. Everything but prejudice should find a voice
through him; he should see the good in all things; where he has even
a fear that he does not wholly understand, there he should be wholly
silent; and he should recognise from the first that he has only one tool
in his workshop, and that tool is sympathy.

*****

Through no art beside the art of words can the kindness of a man’s
affections be expressed. In the cuts you shall find faithfully paraded
the quaintness and the power, the triviality and the surprising
freshness of the author’s fancy; there you shall find him outstripped
in ready symbolism and the art of bringing things essentially invisible
before the eyes: but to feel the contact of essential goodness, to
be made in love with piety, the book must be read and not the prints
examined.

*****

And then I had an idea for John Silver from which I promised myself
funds of entertainment: to take an admired friend of mine (whom the
reader very likely knows and admires as much as I do), to deprive him of
all his finer qualities and higher graces of temperament, to leave
him with nothing but his strength, his courage, his quickness, and
his magnificent geniality, and to try to express these in terms of the
culture of a raw tarpaulin, such physical surgery is, I think, a common
way of ‘making character’; perhaps it is, indeed, the only way. We can
put in the quaint figure that spoke a hundred words with us yesterday
by the wayside; but do we know him? Our friend with his infinite variety
and flexibility, we know-but can we put him in? Upon the first, we must
engraft secondary and imaginary qualities, possibly all wrong; from
the second, knife in hand, we must cut away and deduct the needless
arborescence of his nature, but the trunk and the few branches that
remain we may at least be fairly sure of.

*****

In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself
should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt
clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with
the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable of sleep or of
continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent, should run
thenceforward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and the story, if
it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye.

*****

The obvious is not of necessity the normal; fashion rules and deforms;
the majority fall tamely into the contemporary shape, and thus attain,
in the eyes of the true observer, only a higher power of insignificance;
and the danger is lest, in seeking to draw the normal, a man should draw
the null, and write the novel of society instead of the romance of man.

*****

There is a kind of gaping admiration that would fain roll Shakespeare
and Bacon into one, to have a bigger thing to gape at; and a class of
men who cannot edit one author without disparaging all others.

*****

Style is the invariable mark of any master; and for the student who does
not aspire so high as to be numbered with the giants, it is still the
one quality in which he may improve himself at will. Passion, wisdom,
creative force, the power of mystery or colour, are allotted in the hour
of birth, and can be neither learned nor stimulated. But the just and
dexterous use of what qualities we have, the proportion of one part to
another and to the whole, the elision of the useless, the accentuation
of the important, and the preservation of a uniform character end to
end--these, which taken together constitute technical perfection, are to
some degree within the reach of industry and intellectual courage.

*****

The love of words and not a desire to publish new discoveries, the love,
of form and not a novel reading of historical events, mark the vocation
of the writer and the painter.

*****

The life of the apprentice to any art is both unstrained and pleasing;
it is strewn with small successes in the midst of a career of failure,
patiently supported; the heaviest scholar is conscious of a certain
progress; and if he come not appreciably nearer to the art of
Shakespeare, grows letter-perfect in the domain of A-B, ab.

*****

The fortune of a tale lies not alone in the skill of him that writes,
but as much, perhaps, in the inherited experience of him who reads; and
when I hear with a particular thrill of things that I have never done
or seen, it is one of that innumerable army of my ancestors rejoicing in
past deeds. Thus novels begin to touch not the fine DILETTANTI but the
gross mass of mankind, when they leave off to speak of parlours and
shades of manner and still-born niceties of motive, and begin to deal
with fighting, sailoring, adventure, death or childbirth; and thus
ancient outdoor crafts and occupations, whether Mr. Hardy wields the
shepherd’s crook or Count Tolstoi swings the scythe, lift romance into a
near neighbourhood with epic. These aged things have on them the dew
of man’s morning; they lie near, not so much to us, the semi-artificial
flowerets, as to the trunk and aboriginal taproot of the race. A
thousand interests spring up in the process of the ages, and a thousand
perish; that is now an eccentricity or a lost art which was once the
fashion of an empire; and those only are perennial matters that rouse us
to-day, and that roused men in all epochs of the past.

*****

L’ART DE BIEN DIRE is but a drawing-room accomplishment unless it be
pressed into the service of the truth. The difficulty of literature is
not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but
to affect him precisely as you wish. This is commonly understood in the
case of books or set orations; even in making your will, or writing an
explicit letter, some difficulty is admitted by the world. But one thing
you can never make Philistine natures understand; one thing, which
yet lies on the surface, remains as unseizable to their wits as a
high flight of metaphysics-namely, that the business of life is mainly
carried on by means of this difficult art of literature, and according
to a man’s proficiency in that art shall be the freedom and fulness of
his intercourse with other men. Anybody, it is supposed, can say what
he means; and, in spite of their notorious experience to the contrary,
people so continue to suppose.

*****

Even women, who understand men so well for practical purposes, do not
know them well enough for the purposes of art. Take even the very best
of their male creations, take Tito Melema, for instance, and you will
find he has an equivocal air, and every now and again remembers he has a
comb in the back of his head. Of course, no woman will believe this, and
many men will be so polite as to humour their incredulity.

*****

A dogma learned is only a new error--the old one was perhaps as good;
but a spirit communicated is a perpetual possession. These best teachers
climb beyond teaching to the plane of art; it is themselves, and what is
best in themselves, that they communicate.

*****

In this world of imperfections we gladly welcome even partial
intimacies. And if we find but one to whom we can speak out our
heart freely, with whom we can walk in love and simplicity without
dissimulation, we have no ground of quarrel with the world or God.

*****

But we are all travellers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of
this world-all, too, travellers with a donkey; and the best that we find
in our travels is an honest friend. He is a fortunate voyager who finds
many. We travel, indeed, to find them. They are the end and the reward
of life. They keep us worthy of. ourselves; and when we are alone, we
are only nearer to the absent.

*****

We are all INCOMPRIS, only more or less concerned for the mischance; all
trying wrongly to do right; all fawning at each other’s feet like dumb,
neglected lap-dogs. Sometimes we catch an eye-this is our opportunity in
the ages--and we wag our tail with a poor smile. ‘IS THAT ALL?’ All?
If you only knew! But how can they know? They do not love us; the more
fools we to squander life on the indifferent. But the morality of the
thing, you will be glad to hear, is excellent; for it is only by trying
to understand others that we can get our own hearts understood; and
in matters of human feeling the clement judge is the most successful
pleader.

*****

There is no friendship so noble, but it is the product of the time; and
a world of little finical observances, and little frail proprieties and
fashions of the hour, go to make or to mar, to stint or to perfect,
the union of spirits the most loving and the most intolerant of such
interference. The trick of the country and the age steps in even between
the mother and her child, counts out their caresses upon niggardly
fingers, and says, in the voice of authority, that this one thing shall
be a matter of confidence between them, and this other thing shall not.

*****

There is not anything more bitter than to lose a fancied friend.

*****

The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, and live truly with his
wife and friends; while another man who never told a formal falsehood in
his life may yet be himself one lie-heart and face, from top to bottom.
This is the kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa,
veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and
your friends, never to feign or falsify emotion--that is the truth which
makes love possible and mankind happy.

*****

But surely it is no very extravagant opinion that it is better to give
than to receive, to serve than to use our companions; and, above all,
where there is no question of service upon either side, that it is good
to enjoy their company like a natural man.

*****

A man who has a few friends, or one who has a dozen (if there be any one
so wealthy on this earth), cannot forget on how precarious a base his
happiness reposes; and how by a stroke or two of fate--a death, a few
light words, a piece of stamped paper, or a woman’s bright eyes--he may
be left in a month destitute of all.

*****

In these near intimacies, we are ninety-nine times disappointed in our
beggarly selves for once that we are disappointed in our friend; that it
is we who seem most frequently undeserving of the love that unites us;
and that it is by our friend’s conduct that we are continually rebuked
and yet strengthened for a fresh endeavour.

*****

‘There are some pains,’ said he, ‘too acute for consolation, or I would
bring them to my kind consoler.’

*****

But there are duties which come before gratitude and offences which
justly divide friends, far more acquaintances.

*****

Life, though largely, is not entirely carried on by literature. We
are subject to physical passions and contortions; the voice breaks and
changes, and speaks by unconscious and winning inflections; we have
legible countenances, like an open book; things that cannot be said look
eloquently through the eyes; and the soul, not locked into the body as a
dungeon, dwells ever on the threshold with appealing signals. Groans
and tears, looks and gestures, a flush or a paleness, are often the most
clear reporters of the heart, and speak more directly to the hearts of
others.

*****

We are different with different friends; yet if we look closely we shall
find that every such relation reposes on some particular apotheosis of
oneself; with each friend, although we could not distinguish it in words
from any other, we have at least one special reputation to preserve: and
it is thus that we run, when mortified, to our friend or the woman that
we love, not to hear ourselves called better, but to be better men in
point of fact. We seek this society to flatter ourselves with our own
good conduct. And hence any falsehood in the relation, any incomplete or
perverted understanding, will spoil even the pleasure of these visits.

But it follows that since they are neither of them so good as the other
hopes, and each is, in a very honest manner, playing a part above his
powers, such an intercourse must often be disappointing to both.

*****

It is the mark of a modest man to accept his friendly circle ready-made
from the hands of opportunity; and that was the lawyer’s way. His
friends were those of his own blood, or those whom he had known the
longest; his affections, like ivy, were the growth of time, they implied
no aptness in the object.

*****

Of those who are to act influentially on their fellows, we should expect
always something large and public in their way of life, something more
or less urbane and comprehensive in their sentiment for others. We
should not expect to see them spend their sympathy in idyls, however
beautiful. We should not seek them among those who, if they have but a
wife to their bosom, ask no more of womankind, just as they ask no more
of their own sex, if they can find a friend or two for their
immediate need. They will be quick to feel all the pleasures of our
association-not the great ones alone, but all. They will know not love
only, but all those other ways in which man and woman mutually make
each other happy-by sympathy, by admiration, by the atmosphere they bear
about them-down to the mere impersonal pleasure of passing happy faces
in the street. For, through all this gradation, the difference of sex
makes itself pleasurably felt. Down to the most lukewarm courtesies of
life, there is a special chivalry due and a special pleasure received,
when the two sexes are brought ever so lightly into contact. We love our
mothers otherwise than we love our fathers; a sister is not as a brother
to us; and friendship between man and woman, be it never so unalloyed
and innocent, is not the same as friendship between man and man. Such
friendship is not even possible for all. To conjoin tenderness for a
woman that is not far short of passionate with such disinterestedness
and beautiful gratuity of affection as there is between friends of the
same sex, requires no ordinary disposition in the man. For either it
would presuppose quite womanly delicacy of perception, and, as it were,
a curiosity in shades of differing sentiment; or it would mean that
he had accepted the large, simple divisions of society: a strong
and positive spirit robustly virtuous, who has chosen a better part
coarsely, and holds to it steadfastly, with all its consequences of pain
to himself and others; as one who should go straight before him on a
journey, neither tempted by wayside flowers nor very scrupulous of small
lives under foot.

*****

I could have thought he had been eaves-dropping at the doors of my
heart, so entire was the coincidence between his writing and my thought.

*****

A knowledge that another has felt as we have felt, and seen things, even
as they are little things, not much otherwise than we have seen them,
will continue to the end to be one of life’s choicest pleasures.

*****

     The morning drum-call on my eager ear
     Thrills unforgotten yet; the morning dew
     Lies yet undried along my field of noon.
     But now I pause at whiles in what I do,
     And count the bell, and tremble lest I hear
     (My work untrimmed) the sunset gun too soon.

*****

The ground of all youth’s suffering, solitude, hysteria, and haunting
of the grave, is nothing else than naked, ignorant selfishness. It is
himself that he sees dead; those are his virtues that are forgotten; his
is the vague epitaph. Pity him but the more, if pity be your cue; for
where a man is all pride, vanity, and personal aspiration, he goes
through fire unshielded. In every part and corner of our life, to lose
oneself is to be gainer; to forget oneself is to be happy; and this
poor, laughable, and tragic fool has not yet learned the rudiments;
himself, giant Prometheus, is still ironed on the peaks of Caucasus.
But by and by his truant interests will leave that tortured body, slip
abroad and gather flowers. Then shall death appear before him in an
altered guise; no longer as a doom peculiar to himself, whether fate’s
crowning injustice or his own last vengeance upon those who fail to
value him; but now as a power that wounds him far more tenderly, not
without solemn compensations, taking and giving, bereaving and yet
storing up.

*****

The interests of youth are rarely frank; his passions, like Noah’s dove,
come home to roost. The fire, sensibility, and volume of his own nature,
that is all that he has learned to recognise. The tumultuary and gray
tide of life, the empire of routine, the unrejoicing faces of his
elders, fill him with contemptuous surprise; there also he seems to walk
among the tombs of spirits; and it is only in the course of years, and
after much rubbing with his fellow-men, that he begins by glimpses to
see himself from without and his fellows from within: to know his own
for one among the thousand undenoted countenances of the city street,
and to divine in others the throb of human agony and hope. In the
meantime he will avoid the hospital doors, the pale faces, the cripple,
the sweet whiff of chloroform-for there, on the most thoughtless, the
pains of others are burned home; but he will continue to walk, in a
divine self-pity, the aisles of the forgotten graveyard. The length of
man’s life, which is endless to the brave and busy, is scorned by his
ambitious thought. He cannot bear to have come for so little, and to go
again so wholly. He cannot bear, above all, in that brief scene, to be
still idle, and by way of cure, neglects the little that he has to do.
The parable of the talent is the brief, epitome of youth. To believe in
immortality is one thing, but it is first needful to believe in life.
Denunciatory preachers seem not to suspect that they may be taken
gravely and in evil part; that young men may come to think of time as of
a moment, and with the pride of Satan wave back the inadequate gift. Yet
here is a true peril; this it is that sets them to pace the graveyard
alleys and to read, with strange extremes of pity and derision, the
memorials of the dead.

Books were the proper remedy: books of vivid human import, forcing upon
their minds the issues, pleasures, busyness, importance, and immediacy
of that life in which they stand; books of smiling or heroic temper, to
excite or to console; books of a large design, shadowing the complexity
of that game of consequences to which we all sit down, the hanger-back
not least. But the average sermon flees the point, disporting itself in
that eternity of which we know, and need to know, so little; avoiding
the bright, crowded, and momentous fields of life where destiny awaits
us.

*****

And so in the majority of cases, a man who fancies himself dying will
get cold comfort from the very youthful view expressed in this essay.
He, as a living man, has some to help, some to love, some to correct; it
may be some to punish. These duties cling, not upon humanity, but upon
the man himself. It is he, not another, who is one woman’s son and a
second woman’s husband, and a third woman’s father. That life which
began so small has now grown, with a myriad filaments, into the lives
of others. It is not indispensable; another will take the place and
shoulder the discharged responsibilities; but the better the man and
the nobler his purposes, the more will he be tempted to regret the
extinction of his powers and the deletion of his personality. To have
lived a generation is not only to have grown at home in that perplexing
medium, but to have assumed innumerable duties. To die at such an age
has, for all but the entirely base, something of the air of a betrayal.

*****

Even if death catch people, like an open pitfall, and in mid-career,
laying out vast projects, and planning monstrous foundations, flushed
with hope, and their mouths full of boastful language, they should be at
once tripped up and silenced: is there not something brave and spirited
in such a termination? and does not life go down with a better grace,
foaming in full body over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an
end in sandy deltas? When the Greeks made their fine saying that those
whom the gods love die young, I cannot help believing they had this sort
of death also in their eye. For, surely, at whatever age it overtake the
man, this is to die young.

*****

And so they were at last in ‘their resting graves.’ So long as men do
their duty, even if it be greatly in a misapprehension, they will be
leading pattern lives; and whether or not they come to lie beside a
martyrs’ monument, we may be sure they will find a safe haven somewhere
in the providence of God. It is not well to think of death, unless
we temper the thought with that of heroes who despised it. Upon what
ground, is of small account; if it be only the bishop who was burned for
his faith in the antipodes, his memory lightens the heart and makes
us walk undisturbed among graves. And so the martyrs’ monument is a
wholesome spot in the field of the dead; and as we look upon it, a
brave influence comes to us from the land of those who have won their
discharge, and in another phrase of Patrick Walker’s, got ‘cleanly off
the stage.’

*****

It is not only our enemies, those desperate characters-it is we
ourselves who know not what we do;-thence springs the glimmering hope
that perhaps we do better than we think: that to scramble through this
random business with hands reasonably clean, to have played the part of
a man or woman with some reasonable fulness, to have often resisted the
diabolic, and at the end to be still resisting it, is for the poor human
soldier to have done right well.

*****

We are not content to pass away entirely from the scenes of our delight;
we would leave, if but in gratitude, a pillar and a legend.

*****

There are many spiritual eyes that seem to spy upon our actions-eyes
of the dead and the absent, whom we imagine to behold us in our most
private hours, and whom we fear and scruple to offend: our witnesses and
judges.

*****

How unsubstantial is this projection of a man s existence, which can lie
in abeyance for centuries and then be brushed up again and set forth for
the consideration of posterity by a few dips in an antiquary’s ink-pot!
This precarious tenure of fame goes a long way to justify those (and
they are not few) who prefer cakes and cream in the immediate present.

*****

But I beard the voice of a woman singing some sad, old endless ballad
not far off. It seemed to be about love and a BEL AMOUREUX, her handsome
sweetheart; and I wished I could have taken up the strain and answered
her, as I went on upon my invisible woodland way, weaving, like Pippa in
the poem, my own thoughts with hers. What could I have told her? Little
enough; and yet all the heart requires. How the world gives and takes
away, and brings sweethearts near only to separate them again into
distant and strange lands; but to love is the great amulet which
makes the world a garden; and ‘hope, which comes to all,’ outwears the
accidents of life, and reaches with tremulous hand beyond the grave
and death. Easy to say: yea, but also, by God’s mercy, both easy and
grateful to believe!

*****

As a matter of fact, although few things are spoken of with more fearful
whisperings than this prospect of death, few have less influence on
conduct under healthy circumstances.... If we clung as devotedly as some
philosophers pretend we do to the abstract idea of life, or were half
as frightened as they make out we are, for the subversive accident
that ends it all, the trumpets might sound by the hour and no one would
follow them into battle--the blue-peter might fly at the truck, but who
would climb into a sea-going ship? Think (if these philosophers were
right) with what a preparation of spirit we should affront the daily
peril of the dinner-table: a deadlier spot than any battle-field
in history, where the far greater proportion of our ancestors have
miserably left their bones! What woman would ever be lured into
marriage, so much more dangerous than the wildest sea? And what would it
be to grow old?

*****

If a man knows he will sooner or later be robbed upon a journey, he
will have a bottle of the best in every inn, and look upon all his
extravagances as so much gained upon the thieves. And, above all, where,
instead of simply spending, he makes a profitable investment for some
of his money when it will be out of risk of loss. So every bit of brisk
living, and, above all, when it is healthful, is just so much gained
upon the wholesale filcher, death. We shall have the less in our
pockets, the more in our stomachs, when he cries, ‘Stand and deliver.’

*****

It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a
miser. It is better to live and be done with it, than to die daily in
the sickroom. By all means begin your folio; even if the doctor does not
give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month, make one brave push
and see what can be accomplished in a week. It is not only in finished
undertakings that we ought to honour useful labour. A spirit goes out
of the man who means execution, which outlives the most untimely ending.
All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good
work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. Every
heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse
behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.

*****

Now the man who has his heart on his sleeve, and a good whirling
weathercock of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing to be dashingly
used and cheerfully hazarded, makes a very different acquaintance of the
world, keeps all his pulses going true and fast, and gathers impetus as
he runs, until, if he be running towards anything better than wildfire,
he may shoot up and become a constellation in the end.

*****

When the time comes that he should go, there need be few illusions left
about himself. Here lies one who meant well, tried a little, failed
much:-surely that may be his epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed,
nor will he complain at the summons which calls a defeated soldier from
the field; defeated, ay, if he were Paul or Marcus Aurelius!--but if
there is still one inch of fight in his old spirit, undishonoured.
The faith which sustained him in his lifelong blindness and lifelong
disappointment will scarce even be required in this last formality of
laying down his arms. Give him a march with his old bones; there, out
of the glorious sun-coloured earth, out of the day and the dust and the
ecstasy-there goes another Faithful Failure.

*****

We are apt to make so much of the tragedy of the tragedy of death, and
think so little of the enduring tragedy of some men’s lives, that we
see more to lament for in a life cut off in the midst of usefulness and
love, than in one that miserably survives all love and usefulness, and
goes about the world the phantom of itself, without hope, or joy, or any
consolation.

*****

‘You are a strange physician,’ said Will, looking steadfastly upon his
guest.

‘I am a natural law,’ he replied, ‘and people call me Death.’

‘Why did you not tell me so at first?’ cried Will.

‘I have been waiting for you these many years. Give me your hand, and
welcome.’

*****

     Under the wide and starry sky
     Dig the grave and let me lie.
     Glad did I live, and gladly die,
     And I laid me down with a will.

     This be the verse you grave for me:
     Here he lies where he longed to be;
     Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
     And the hunter home from the hill.

*****

But the girls picked up their skirts, as if they were sure they had good
ankles, and followed until their breath was out. The last to weary were
the three graces and a couple of companions; and just as they, too,
had had enough, the foremost of the three leaped upon a tree-stump and
kissed her hand to the canoeists. Not Diana herself, although this
was more of a Venus, after all, could have done a graceful thing more
gracefully. ‘Come back again!’ she cried; and all the others echoed
her; and the hills about Origny repeated the words, ‘Come back.’ But the
river had us round an angle in a twinkling, and we were alone with the
green trees and running water.

Come back? There is no coming back, young ladies, on the impetuous
stream of life.

      ‘The merchant bows unto the seaman’s star,
      The plowman from the sun his season takes.’

And we must all set our pocket watches by the clock of fate. There is
a headlong, forthright tide, that bears away man with his fancies like
straw, and runs fast in time and space. It is full of curves like this,
your winding river of the Oise; and lingers and returns in pleasant
pastorals; and yet, rightly thought upon, never returns at all. For
though it should revisit the same acre of meadow in the same hour, it
will have made an ample sweep between-whiles; many little streams will
have fallen in; many exhalations risen toward the sun; and even although
it were the same acre, it will not be the same river Oise. And thus, oh
graces of Origny, although the wandering fortune of my life should carry
me back again to where you await death’s whistle by the river, that will
not be the old I who walks the streets; and those wives and mothers,
say, will those be you?

*****

          THE CELESTIAL SURGEON

        If I have faltered more or less
        In my great task of happiness;
        If I have moved among my race
        And shown no glorious morning face;
        If beams from happy human eyes
        Have moved me not; if morning skies,
        Books, and my food, and summer rain
        Knocked on my sullen heart in vain
        Lord, Thy most pointed pleasure take
        And stab my spirit broad awake;
        Or, Lord, if too obdurate I,
        Choose Thou, before that spirit die,
        A piercing pain, a killing sin,
        And to my dead heart run them in!

*****

Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge. Give us grace and strength
to forbear and to persevere. Offenders, give us the grace to accept and
to forgive offenders. Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully
the forgetfulness of others. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet
mind. Spare us to our friends, soften us to our enemies. Bless us, if
it may be, in all our innocent endeavours. If it may not, give us the
strength to encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril,
constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of
fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to
another.

*****

PRAYER AT MORNING

The day returns and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and
duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform then with laughter
and kind faces, let cheerfulness abound with industry. Give us to go
blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our resting beds
weary and content and undishonoured, and grant us in the end the gift of
sleep.

*****

PRAYER AT EVENING

Our guard is relieved, the service of the day is over, and the hour come
to rest. We resign into Thy hands our sleeping bodies, our cold hearths
and open doors. Give us to awake with smiles, give us to labour smiling.
As the sun returns in the east, so let our patience be renewed with
dawn; as the sun lightens the world, so let our loving-kindness make
bright this house of our habitations.

*****

Blind us to the offences of our beloved, cleanse them from our memories,
take them out of our mouths for ever. Let all here before Thee carry and
measure with the false balances of love, and be in their own eyes and
in all conjunctures the most guilty. Help us at the same time with the
grace of courage, that we be none of us cast down when we sit lamenting
amid the ruins of our happiness or our integrity; touch us with fire
from the altar, that we may be up and doing to rebuild our city.

*****

We beseech Thee, Lord, to behold us with favour, folk of many families
and nations gathered together in the peace of this roof, weak men and
women subsisting under the covert of Thy patience. Be patient still;
suffer us yet a while longer;--with our broken purposes of good, with our
idle endeavours against evil, suffer us a while longer to endure, and
(if it may be) help us to do better. Bless to us our extraordinary
mercies; if the day come when these must be taken, brace us to play the
man under affliction. Be with our friends, be with ourselves. Go with
each of us to rest; if any awake, temper to them the dark hours of
watching; and when the day returns, return to us, our sun and comforter,
and call us up with morning faces and with morning hearts--eager to
labour--eager to be happy, if happiness shall be our portion--and if the
day be marked for sorrow, strong to endure it.





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