Infomotions, Inc.Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers / Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894

Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894
Title: Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): essays; life; people; love; virginibus; stevenson; man; robert; rudder; louis; papers; puerisque
Contributor(s): Rudder, Robert S. [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 51,341 words (really short) Grade range: 13-16 (college) Readability score: 52 (average)
Identifier: etext386
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Virginibus Puerisque

by Robert Louis Stevenson

January, 1996 [Etext #386]

The Project Gutenberg Etext of Virginibus Puerisque, by Stevenson
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Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Scanned and proofed by David Price, email


    Virginibus Puerisque
    Crabbed Age and Youth
    An Apology For Idlers
    Ordered South
    Aes Triplex
    El Dorado
    The English Admirals
    Some Portraits by Raeburn
    Child's Play
    Walking Tours
    Pan's Pipes
    A Plea For Gas Lamps


WITH the single exception of Falstaff, all Shakespeare's 
characters are what we call marrying men.  Mercutio, as he was 
own cousin to Benedick and Biron, would have come to the same 
end in the long run.  Even Iago had a wife, and, what is far 
stranger, he was jealous.  People like Jacques and the Fool in 
LEAR, although we can hardly imagine they would ever marry, 
kept single out of a cynical humour or for a broken heart, and 
not, as we do nowadays, from a spirit of incredulity and 
preference for the single state.  For that matter, if you turn 
to George Sand's French version of AS YOU LIKE IT (and I think 
I can promise you will like it but little), you will find 
Jacques marries Celia just as Orlando marries Rosalind.

At least there seems to have been much less hesitation 
over marriage in Shakespeare's days; and what hesitation there 
was was of a laughing sort, and not much more serious, one way 
or the other, than that of Panurge.  In modern comedies the 
heroes are mostly of Benedick's way of thinking, but twice as 
much in earnest, and not one quarter so confident.  And I take 
this diffidence as a proof of how sincere their terror is.  
They know they are only human after all; they know what gins 
and pitfalls lie about their feet; and how the shadow of 
matrimony waits, resolute and awful, at the cross-roads.  They 
would wish to keep their liberty; but if that may not be, why, 
God's will be done!  "What, are you afraid of marriage?" asks 
Cecile, in MAITRE GUERIN.  "Oh, mon Dieu, non!" replies 
Arthur; "I should take chloroform."  They look forward to 
marriage much in the same way as they prepare themselves for 
death: each seems inevitable; each is a great Perhaps, and a 
leap into the dark, for which, when a man is in the blue 
devils, he has specially to harden his heart.  That splendid 
scoundrel, Maxime de Trailles, took the news of marriages much 
as an old man hears the deaths of his contemporaries.  "C'est 
desesperant," he cried, throwing himself down in the arm-chair 
at Madame Schontz's; "c'est desesperant, nous nous marions 
tous!"  Every marriage was like another gray hair on his head; 
and the jolly church bells seemed to taunt him with his fifty 
years and fair round belly.

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.  The friendships of men are vastly agreeable, 
but they are insecure.  You know all the time that one friend 
will marry and put you to the door; a second accept a 
situation in China, and become no more to you than a name, a 
reminiscence, and an occasional crossed letter, very laborious 
to read; a third will take up with some religious crotchet and 
treat you to sour looks thence-forward.  So, in one way or 
another, life forces men apart and breaks up the goodly 
fellowships for ever.  The very flexibility and ease which 
make men's friendships so agreeable while they endure, make 
them the easier to destroy and forget.  And 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, a woman's 
bright eyes - he may be left, in a month, destitute of all.  
Marriage is certainly a perilous remedy.  Instead of on two or 
three, you stake your happiness on one life only.  But still, 
as the bargain is more explicit and complete on your part, it 
is more so on the other; and you have not to fear so many 
contingencies; it is not every wind that can blow you from 
your anchorage; and so long as Death withholds his sickle, you 
will always have a friend at home.  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 

But marriage, if comfortable, is not at all heroic.  It 
certainly narrows and damps the spirits of generous men.  In 
marriage, a man becomes slack and selfish, and undergoes a 
fatty degeneration of his moral being.  It is not only when 
Lydgate misallies himself with Rosamond Vincy, but when 
Ladislaw marries above him with Dorothea, that this may be 
exemplified.  The air of the fireside withers out all the fine 
wildings of the husband's heart.  He is so comfortable and 
happy that he begins to prefer comfort and happiness to 
everything else on earth, his wife included.  Yesterday he 
would have shared his last shilling; to-day "his first duty is 
to his family," and is fulfilled in large measure by laying 
down vintages and husbanding the health of an invaluable 
parent.  Twenty years ago this man was equally capable of 
crime or heroism; now he is fit for neither.  His soul is 
asleep, and you may speak without constraint; you will not 
wake him.  It is not for nothing that Don Quixote was a 
bachelor and Marcus Aurelius married ill.  For women, there is 
less of this danger.  Marriage is of so much use to a woman, 
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.  And this would seem to show, even for women, some 
narrowing influence in comfortable married life.  But the rule 
is none the less certain: if you wish the pick of men and 
women, take a good bachelor and a good wife.

I am often filled with wonder that so many marriages are 
passably successful, and so few come to open failure, the more 
so as I fail to understand the principle on which people 
regulate their choice.  I see women marrying indiscriminately 
with staring burgesses and ferret-faced, white-eyed boys, and 
men dwell in contentment with noisy scullions, or taking into 
their lives acidulous vestals.  It is a common answer to say 
the good people marry because they fall in love; and of course 
you may use and misuse a word as much as you please, if you 
have the world along with you.  But love is at least a 
somewhat hyperbolical expression for such luke-warm 
preference.  It is not here, anyway, that Love employs his 
golden shafts; he cannot be said, with any fitness of 
language, to reign here and revel.  Indeed, if this be love at 
all, it is plain the poets have been fooling with mankind 
since the foundation of the world.  And you have only to look 
these happy couples in the face, to see they have never been 
in love, or in hate, or in any other high passion, all their 
days.  When you see a dish of fruit at dessert, you sometimes 
set your affections upon one particular peach or nectarine, 
watch it with some anxiety as it comes round the table, and 
feel quite a sensible disappointment when it is taken by some 
one else.  I have used the phrase "high passion."  Well, I 
should say this was about as high a passion as generally leads 
to marriage.  One husband hears after marriage that some poor 
fellow is dying of his wife's love.  "What a pity!" he 
exclaims; "you know I could so easily have got another!"  And 
yet that is a very happy union.  Or again: A young man was 
telling me the sweet story of his loves.  "I like it well 
enough as long as her sisters are there," said this amorous 
swain; "but I don't know what to do when we're alone."  Once 
more: A married lady was debating the subject with another 
lady.  "You know, dear," said the first, "after ten years of 
marriage, if he is nothing else, your husband is always an old 
friend."  "I have many old friends," returned the other, "but 
I prefer them to be nothing more."  "Oh, perhaps I might 
PREFER that also!"  There is a common note in these three 
illustrations of the modern idyll; and it must be owned the 
god goes among us with a limping gait and blear eyes.  You 
wonder whether it was so always; whether desire was always 
equally dull and spiritless, and possession equally cold.  I 
cannot help fancying most people make, ere they marry, some 
such table of recommendations as Hannah Godwin wrote to her 
brother William anent her friend, Miss Gay.  It is so 
charmingly comical, and so pat to the occasion, that I must 
quote a few phrases.  "The young lady is in every sense formed 
to make one of your disposition really happy.  She has a 
pleasing voice, with which she accompanies her musical 
instrument with judgment.  She has an easy politeness in her 
manners, neither free nor reserved.  She is a good housekeeper 
and a good economist, and yet of a generous disposition.  As 
to her internal accomplishments, I have reason to speak still 
more highly of them: good sense without vanity, a penetrating 
judgment without a disposition to satire, with about as much 
religion as my William likes, struck me with a wish that she 
was my William's wife."  That is about the tune: pleasing 
voice, moderate good looks, unimpeachable internal 
accomplishments after the style of the copy-book, with about 
as much religion as my William likes; and then, with all 
speed, to church.

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.

How then, seeing we are driven to the hypothesis that 
people choose in comparatively cold blood, how is it they 
choose so well?  One is almost tempted to hint that it does 
not much matter whom you marry; that, in fact, marriage is a 
subjective affection, and if you have made up your mind to it, 
and once talked yourself fairly over, you could "pull it 
through" with anybody.  But even if we take matrimony at its 
lowest, even if we regard it as no more than a sort of 
friendship recognised by the police, there must be degrees in 
the freedom and sympathy realised, and some principle to guide 
simple folk in their selection.  Now what should this 
principle be?  Are there no more definite rules than are to be 
found in the Prayer-book?  Law and religion forbid the bans on 
the ground of propinquity or consanguinity; society steps in 
to separate classes; and in all this most critical matter, has 
common sense, has wisdom, never a word to say?  In the absence 
of more magisterial teaching, let us talk it over between 
friends: even a few guesses may be of interest to youths and 

In all that concerns eating and drinking, company, 
climate, and ways of life, community of taste is to be sought 
for.  It would be trying, for instance, to keep bed and board 
with an early riser or a vegetarian.  In matters of art and 
intellect, I believe it is of no consequence.  Certainly it is 
of none in the companionships of men, who will dine more 
readily with one who has a good heart, a good cellar, and a 
humorous tongue, than with another who shares all their 
favourite hobbies and is melancholy withal.  If your wife 
likes Tupper, that is no reason why you should hang your head.  
She thinks with the majority, and has the courage of her 
opinions.  I have always suspected public taste to be a 
mongrel product, out of affectation by dogmatism; and felt 
sure, if you could only find an honest man of no special 
literary bent, he would tell you he thought much of 
Shakespeare bombastic and most absurd, and all of him written 
in very obscure English and wearisome to read.  And not long 
ago I was able to lay by my lantern in content, for I found 
the honest man.  He was a fellow of parts, quick, humorous, a 
clever painter, and with an eye for certain poetical effects 
of sea and ships.  I am not much of a judge of that kind of 
thing, but a sketch of his comes before me sometimes at night.  
How strong, supple, and living the ship seems upon the 
billows!  With what a dip and rake she shears the flying sea!  
I cannot fancy the man who saw this effect, and took it on the 
wing with so much force and spirit, was what you call 
commonplace in the last recesses of the heart.  And yet he 
thought, and was not ashamed to have it known of him, that 
Ouida was better in every way than William Shakespeare.  If 
there were more people of his honesty, this would be about the 
staple of lay criticism.  It is not taste that is plentiful, 
but courage that is rare.  And what have we in place?  How 
many, who think no otherwise than the young painter, have we 
not heard disbursing second-hand hyperboles?  Have you never 
turned sick at heart, O best of critics! when some of your own 
sweet adjectives were returned on you before a gaping 
audience?  Enthusiasm about art is become a function of the 
average female being, which she performs with precision and a 
sort of haunting sprightliness, like an ingenious and well-
regulated machine.  Sometimes, alas! the calmest man is 
carried away in the torrent, bandies adjectives with the best, 
and out-Herods Herod for some shameful moments.  When you 
remember that, you will be tempted to put things strongly, and 
say you will marry no one who is not like George the Second, 
and cannot state openly a distaste for poetry and painting.

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?  Now 
this is where there should be community between man and wife.  
They should be agreed on their catchword in "FACTS OF 
without such an agreement all intercourse is a painful strain 
upon the mind.  "About as much religion as my William likes," 
in short, that is what is necessary to make a happy couple of 
any William and his spouse.  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 Budget, 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.

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.  That people should laugh 
over the same sort of jests, and have many a story of "grouse 
in the gun-room," many an old joke between them which time 
cannot wither nor custom stale, is a better preparation for 
life, by your leave, than many other things higher and better 
sounding in the world's ears.  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.

I know a woman who, from some distaste or disability, 
could never so much as understand the meaning of the word 
POLITICS, and has given up trying to distinguish Whigs from 
Tories; but take her on her own politics, ask her about other 
men or women and the chicanery of everyday existence - the 
rubs, the tricks, the vanities on which life turns - and you 
will not find many more shrewd, trenchant, and humorous.  Nay, 
to make plainer what I have in mind, this same woman has a 
share of the higher and more poetical understanding, frank 
interest in things for their own sake, and enduring 
astonishment at the most common.  She is not to be deceived by 
custom, or made to think a mystery solved when it is repeated.  
I have heard her say she could wonder herself crazy over the 
human eyebrow.  Now in a world where most of us walk very 
contentedly in the little lit circle of their own reason, and 
have to be reminded of what lies without by specious and 
clamant exceptions - earthquakes, eruptions of Vesuvius, 
banjos floating in mid-air at a SEANCE, and the like - a mind 
so fresh and unsophisticated is no despicable gift.  I will 
own I think it a better sort of mind than goes necessarily 
with the clearest views on public business.  It will wash.  It 
will find something to say at an odd moment.  It has in it the 
spring of pleasant and quaint fancies.  Whereas I can imagine 
myself yawning all night long until my jaws ached and the 
tears came into my eyes, although my companion on the other 
side of the hearth held the most enlightened opinions on the 
franchise or the ballot.

The question of professions, in as far as they regard 
marriage, was only interesting to women until of late days, 
but it touches all of us now.  Certainly, if I could help it, 
I would never marry a wife who wrote.  The practice of letters 
is miserably harassing to the mind; and after an hour or two's 
work, all the more human portion of the author is extinct; he 
will bully, backbite, and speak daggers.  Music, I hear, is 
not much better.  But painting, on the contrary, is often 
highly sedative; because so much of the labour, after your 
picture is once begun, is almost entirely manual, and of that 
skilled sort of manual labour which offers a continual series 
of successes, and so tickles a man, through his vanity, into 
good humour.  Alas! in letters there is nothing of this sort. 
You may write as beautiful a hand as you will, you have always 
something else to think of, and cannot pause to notice your 
loops and flourishes; they are beside the mark, and the first 
law stationer could put you to the blush.  Rousseau, indeed, 
made some account of penmanship, even made it a source of 
livelihood, when he copied out the HELOISE for DILETTANTE 
ladies; and therein showed that strange eccentric prudence 
which guided him among so many thousand follies and 
insanities.  It would be well for all of the GENUS IRRITABILE 
thus to add something of skilled labour to intangible brain-
work.  To find the right word is so doubtful a success and 
lies so near to failure, that there is no satisfaction in a 
year of it; but we all know when we have formed a letter 
perfectly; and a stupid artist, right or wrong, is almost 
equally certain he has found a right tone or a right colour, 
or made a dexterous stroke with his brush.  And, again, 
painters may work out of doors; and the fresh air, the 
deliberate seasons, and the "tranquillising influence" of the 
green earth, counterbalance the fever of thought, and keep 
them cool, placable, and prosaic.

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.  Men who fish, 
botanise, work with the turning-lathe, or gather sea-weeds, 
will make admirable husbands and a little amateur painting in 
water-colour shows the innocent and quiet mind.  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 of husbands.  It is to 
be noticed that those who have loved once or twice already are 
so much the better educated to a woman's hand; the bright boy 
of fiction is an odd and most uncomfortable mixture of shyness 
and coarseness, and needs a deal of civilising.  Lastly (and 
this is, perhaps, the golden rule), no woman should marry a 
teetotaller, or a man who does not smoke.  It is not for 
nothing that this "ignoble tabagie," as Michelet calls it, 
spreads over all the world.  Michelet rails against it because 
it renders you happy apart from thought or work; to provident 
women this will seem no evil influence in married life.  
Whatever keeps a man in the front garden, whatever checks 
wandering fancy and all inordinate ambition, whatever makes 
for lounging and contentment, makes just so surely for 
domestic happiness.

These notes, if they amuse the reader at all, will 
probably amuse him more when he differs than when he agrees 
with them; at least they will do no harm, for nobody will 
follow my advice.  But the last word is of more concern.  
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.


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.  I think it improbable that I shall ever write 
like Shakespeare, conduct an army like Hannibal, or 
distinguish myself like Marcus Aurelius in the paths of 
virtue; and yet I have my by-days, hope prompting, when I am 
very ready to believe that I shall combine all these various 
excellences in my own person, and go marching down to 
posterity with divine honours.  There is nothing so monstrous 
but we can believe it of ourselves.  About ourselves, about 
our aspirations and delinquencies, we have dwelt by choice in 
a delicious vagueness from our boyhood up.  No one will have 
forgotten Tom Sawyer's aspiration: "Ah, if he could only die 
TEMPORARILY!"  Or, perhaps, better still, the inward 
resolution of the two pirates, that "so long as they remained 
in that business, their piracies should not again be sullied 
with the crime of stealing."  Here we recognise the thoughts 
of our boyhood; and our boyhood ceased - well, when? - not, I 
think, at twenty; nor, perhaps, altogether at twenty-five; nor 
yet at thirty; and possibly, to be quite frank, we are still 
in the thick of that arcadian period.  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 unfading boyishness of hope and its vigorous 
irrationality are nowhere better displayed than in questions 
of conduct.  There is a character in the PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, 
one Mr. LINGER-AFTER-LUST with whom I fancy we are all on 
speaking terms; one famous among the famous for ingenuity of 
hope up to and beyond the moment of defeat; one who, after 
eighty years of contrary experience, will believe it possible 
to continue in the business of piracy and yet avoid the guilt 
of theft.  Every sin is our last; every 1st of January a 
remarkable turning-point in our career.  Any overt act, above 
all, is felt to be alchemic in its power to change.  A 
drunkard takes the pledge; it will be strange if that does not 
help him.  For how many years did Mr. Pepys continue to make 
and break his little vows?  And yet I have not heard that he 
was discouraged in the end.  By such steps we think to fix a 
momentary resolution; as a timid fellow hies him to the 
dentist's while the tooth is stinging.

But, alas, by planting a stake at the top of flood, you 
can neither prevent nor delay the inevitable ebb.  There is no 
hocus-pocus in morality; and even the "sanctimonious ceremony" 
of marriage leaves the man unchanged.  This is a hard saying, 
and has an air of paradox.  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 with him 
if he cannot be good and fortunate and happy 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.  For years, 
let us suppose, you have been making the most indifferent 
business of your career.  Your experience has not, we may dare 
to say, been more encouraging than Paul's or Horace's; like 
them, you have seen and desired the good that you were not 
able to accomplish; like them, you have done the evil that you 
loathed.  You have waked at night in a hot or a cold sweat, 
according to your habit of body, remembering with dismal 
surprise, your own unpardonable acts and sayings.  You have 
been sometimes tempted to withdraw entirely from this game of 
life; as a man who makes nothing but misses withdraws from 
that less dangerous one of billiards.  You have fallen back 
upon the thought that you yourself most sharply smarted for 
your misdemeanours, or, in the old, plaintive phrase, that you 
were nobody's enemy but your own.  And then you have been made 
aware of what was beautiful and amiable, wise and kind, in the 
other part of your behaviour; and it seemed as if nothing 
could reconcile the contradiction, as indeed nothing can.  If 
you are a man, you have shut your mouth hard and said nothing; 
and if you are only a man in the making, you have recognised 
that yours was quite a special case, and you yourself not 
guilty of your own pestiferous career.

Granted, and with all my heart.  Let us accept these 
apologies; let us agree that you are nobody's enemy but your 
own; let us agree that you are a sort of moral cripple, 
impotent for good; and let us regard you with the unmingled 
pity due to such a fate.  But there is one thing to which, on 
these terms, we can never agree: - we can never agree to have 
you marry.  What! you have had one life to manage, and have 
failed so strangely, and now can see nothing wiser than to 
conjoin with it the management of some one else's?  Because 
you have been unfaithful in a very little, you propose 
yourself to be a ruler over ten cities.  You strip yourself by 
such a step of all remaining consolations and excuses.  You 
are no longer content to be your own enemy; you must be your 
wife's also.  You have been hitherto in a mere subaltern 
attitude; dealing cruel blows about you in life, yet only half 
responsible, since you came there by no choice or movement of 
your own.  Now, it appears, you must take things on your own 
authority: God made you, but you marry yourself; and for all 
that your wife suffers, no one is responsible but you.  A man 
must be very certain of his knowledge ere he undertake to 
guide a ticket-of-leave man through a dangerous pass; you have 
eternally missed your way in life, with consequences that you 
still deplore, and yet you masterfully seize your wife's hand, 
and, blindfold, drag her after you to ruin.  And it is your 
wife, you observe, whom you select.  She, whose happiness you 
most desire, you choose to be your victim.  You would 
earnestly warn her from a tottering bridge or bad investment.  
If she were to marry some one else, how you would tremble for 
her fate!  If she were only your sister, and you thought half 
as much of her, how doubtfully would you entrust her future to 
a man no better than yourself!

Times are changed with him who marries; there are no more 
by-path meadows, where you may innocently linger, but the road 
lies long and straight and dusty to the grave.  Idleness, 
which is often becoming and even wise in the bachelor, begins 
to wear a different aspect when you have a wife to support.  
Suppose, after you are married, one of those little slips were 
to befall you.  What happened last November might surely 
happen February next.  They may have annoyed you at the time, 
because they were not what you had meant; but how will they 
annoy you in the future, and how will they shake the fabric of 
your wife's confidence and peace!  A thousand things 
unpleasing went on in the CHIAROSCURO of a life that you 
shrank from too particularly realising; you did not care, in 
those days, to make a fetish of your conscience; you would 
recognise your failures with a nod, and so, good day.  But the 
time for these reserves is over.  You have wilfully introduced 
a witness into your life, the scene of these defeats, and can 
no longer close the mind's eye upon uncomely passages, but 
must stand up straight and put a name upon your actions.  And 
your witness is not only the judge, but the victim of your 
sins; not only can she condemn you to the sharpest penalties, 
but she must herself share feelingly in their endurance.  And 
observe, once more, with what temerity you have chosen 
precisely HER to be your spy, whose esteem you value highest, 
and whom you have already taught to think you better than you 
are.  You may think you had a conscience, and believed in God; 
but what is a conscience to a wife?  Wise men of yore erected 
statues of their deities, and consciously performed their part 
in life before those marble eyes.  A god watched them at the 
board, and stood by their bedside in the morning when they 
woke; and all about their ancient cities, where they bought 
and sold, or where they piped and wrestled, there would stand 
some symbol of the things that are outside of man.  These were 
lessons, delivered in the quiet dialect of art, which told 
their story faithfully, but gently.  It is the same lesson, if 
you will - but how harrowingly taught! - when the woman you 
respect shall weep from your unkindness or blush with shame at 
your misconduct.  Poor girls in Italy turn their painted 
Madonnas to the wall: you cannot set aside your wife.  To 
marry is to domesticate the Recording Angel.  Once you are 
married, there is nothing left for you, not even suicide, but 
to be good.

And goodness in marriage is a more intricate problem than 
mere single virtue; for in marriage there are two ideals to be 
realised.  A girl, it is true, has always lived in a glass 
house among reproving relatives, whose word was law; she has 
been bred up to sacrifice her judgments and take the key 
submissively from dear papa; and it is wonderful how swiftly 
she can change her tune into the husband's.  Her morality has 
been, too often, an affair of precept and conformity.  But in 
the case of a bachelor who has enjoyed some measure both of 
privacy and freedom, his moral judgments have been passed in 
some accordance with his nature.  His sins were always sins in 
his own sight; he could then only sin when he did some act 
against his clear conviction; the light that he walked by was 
obscure, but it was single.  Now, when two people of any grit 
and spirit put their fortunes into one, there succeeds to this 
comparative certainty a huge welter of competing 
jurisdictions.  It no longer matters so much how life appears 
to one; one must consult another: one, who may be strong, must 
not offend the other, who is weak.  The only weak brother I am 
willing to consider is (to make a bull for once) my wife.  For 
her, and for her only, I must waive my righteous judgments, 
and go crookedly about my life.  How, then, in such an 
atmosphere of compromise, to keep honour bright and abstain 
from base capitulations?  How are you to put aside love's 
pleadings?  How are you, the apostle of laxity, to turn 
suddenly about into the rabbi of precision; and after these 
years of ragged practice, pose for a hero to the lackey who 
has found you out?  In this temptation to mutual indulgence 
lies the particular peril to morality in married life.  Daily 
they drop a little lower from the first ideal, and for a while 
continue to accept these changelings with a gross complacency.  
At last Love wakes and looks about him; finds his hero sunk 
into a stout old brute, intent on brandy pawnee; finds his 
heroine divested of her angel brightness; and in the flash of 
that first disenchantment, flees for ever.

Again, the husband, in these unions, is usually a man, 
and the wife commonly enough a woman; and when this is the 
case, although it makes the firmer marriage, a thick 
additional veil of misconception hangs above the doubtful 
business.  Women, I believe, are somewhat rarer than men; but 
then, if I were a woman myself, I daresay I should hold the 
reverse; and at least we all enter more or less wholly into 
one or other of these camps.  A man who delights women by his 
feminine perceptions will often scatter his admirers by a 
chance explosion of the under side of man; and the most 
masculine and direct of women will some day, to your dire 
surprise, draw out like a telescope into successive lengths of 
personation.  Alas! for the man, knowing her to be at heart 
more candid than himself, who shall flounder, panting, through 
these mazes in the quest for truth.  The proper qualities of 
each sex are, indeed, eternally surprising to the other.  
Between the Latin and the Teuton races there are similar 
divergences, not to be bridged by the most liberal sympathy.  
And in the good, plain, cut-and-dry explanations of this life, 
which pass current among us as the wisdom of the elders, this 
difficulty has been turned with the aid of pious lies.  Thus, 
when a young lady has angelic features, eats nothing to speak 
of, plays all day long on the piano, and sings ravishingly in 
church, it requires a rough infidelity, falsely called 
cynicism, to believe that she may be a little devil after all.  
Yet so it is: she may be a tale-bearer, a liar, and a thief; 
she may have a taste for brandy, and no heart.  My compliments 
to George Eliot for her Rosamond Vincy; the ugly work of 
satire she has transmuted to the ends of art, by the companion 
figure of Lydgate; and the satire was much wanted for the 
education of young men.  That doctrine of the excellence of 
women, however chivalrous, is cowardly as well as false.  It 
is better to face the fact, and know, when you marry, that you 
take into your life a creature of equal, if of unlike, 
frailties; whose weak human heart beats no more tunefully than 

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.  What the boy does 
almost proudly, as a manly peccadillo, the girl will shudder 
at as a debasing vice; what is to her the mere common sense of 
tactics, he will spit out of his mouth as shameful.  Through 
such a sea of contrarieties must this green couple steer their 
way; and contrive to love each other; and to respect, 
forsooth; and be ready, when the time arrives, to educate the 
little men and women who shall succeed to their places and 

And yet, when all has been said, the man who should hold 
back from marriage is in the same case with him who runs away 
from battle.  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.  The noblest passage in one of the noblest books of this 
century, is where the old pope glories in the trial, nay, in 
the partial fall and but imperfect triumph, of the younger 
hero. (1)  Without some such manly note, it were perhaps 
better to have no conscience at all.  But there is a vast 
difference between teaching flight, and showing points of 
peril that a man may march the more warily.  And the true 
conclusion of this paper is to turn our back on apprehensions, 
and embrace that shining and courageous virtue, Faith.  Hope 
is the boy, a blind, headlong, pleasant fellow, good to chase 
swallows with the salt; Faith is the grave, experienced, yet 
smiling man.  Hope lives on ignorance; open-eyed Faith is 
built upon a knowledge of our life, of the tyranny of 
circumstance and the frailty of human resolution.  Hope looks 
for unqualified success; but Faith counts certainly on 
failure, and takes honourable defeat to be a form of victory.  
Hope is a kind old pagan; but Faith grew up in Christian days, 
and early learnt humility.  In the one temper, a man is 
indignant that he cannot spring up in a clap to heights of 
elegance and virtue; in the other, out of a sense of his 
infirmities, he is filled with confidence because a year has 
come and gone, and he has still preserved some rags of honour.  
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 
play-things; 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 imperfection, 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 I 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.

(1) Browning's RING AND BOOK.


"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

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 friends and acquaintances under the influence 
of love.  He may sometimes 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.  I remember an anecdote of 
a well-known French theorist, who was debating a point eagerly 
in his CENACLE.  It was objected against him that he had never 
experienced love.  Whereupon he arose, left the society, and 
made it a point not to return to it until he considered that 
he had supplied the defect.  "Now," he remarked, on entering, 
"now I am in a position to continue the discussion."  Perhaps 
he had not penetrated very deeply into the subject after all; 
but the story indicates right thinking, and may serve as an 
apologue to readers of this essay.

When at last the scales fall from his eyes, it is not 
without something of the nature of dismay that the man finds 
himself in such changed conditions.  He has to deal with 
commanding emotions instead of the easy dislikes and 
preferences in which he has hitherto passed his days; and he 
recognises capabilities for pain and pleasure of which he had 
not yet suspected the existence.  Falling in love is the one 
illogical adventure, the one thing of which we are tempted to 
think as supernatural, in our trite and reasonable world.  The 
effect is out of all proportion with the cause.  Two persons, 
neither of them, it may be, very amiable or very beautiful, 
meet, speak a little, and look a little into each other's 
eyes.  That has been done a dozen or so of times in the 
experience of either with no great result.  But on this 
occasion all is different.  They fall at once into that state 
in which another person becomes to us the very gist and 
centrepoint of God's creation, and demolishes our laborious 
theories with a smile; in which our ideas are so bound up with 
the one master-thought that even the trivial cares of our own 
person become so many acts of devotion, and the love of life 
itself is translated into a wish to remain in the same world 
with so precious and desirable a fellow-creature.  And all the 
while their acquaintances look on in stupor, and ask each 
other, with almost passionate emphasis, what so-and-so can see 
in that woman, or such-an-one in that man?  I am sure, 
gentlemen, I cannot tell you.  For my part, I cannot think 
what the women mean.  It might be very well, if the Apollo 
Belvedere should suddenly glow all over into life, and step 
forward from the pedestal with that godlike air of his.  But 
of the misbegotten changelings who call themselves men, and 
prate intolerably over dinner-tables, I never saw one who 
seemed worthy to inspire love - no, nor read of any, except 
Leonardo da Vinci, and perhaps Goethe in his youth.  About 
women I entertain a somewhat different opinion; but there, I 
have the misfortune to be a man.

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.  You know the difficulty Shakespeare was put 
into when Queen Elizabeth asked him to show Falstaff in love.  
I do not believe that Henry Fielding was ever in love.  Scott, 
if it were not for a passage or two in ROB ROY, would give me 
very much the same effect.  These are great names and (what is 
more to the purpose) strong, healthy, high-strung, and 
generous natures, of whom the reverse might have been 
expected.  As for the innumerable army of anaemic and 
tailorish persons who occupy the face of this planet with so 
much propriety, it is palpably absurd to imagine them in any 
such situation as a love-affair.  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.  There is the nice and critical moment 
of declaration to be got over.  From timidity or lack of 
opportunity a good half of possible love cases never get so 
far, and at least another quarter do there cease and 
determine.  A very adroit person, to be sure, manages to 
prepare the way and out with his declaration in the nick of 
time.  And then there is a fine solid sort of man, who goes on 
from snub to snub; and if he has to declare forty times, will 
continue imperturbably declaring, amid the astonished 
consideration of men and angels, until he has a favourable 
answer.  I daresay, if one were a woman, one would like to 
marry a man who was capable of doing this, but not quite one 
who had done so.  It is just a little bit abject, and somehow 
just a little bit gross; and marriages in which one of the 
parties has been thus battered into consent scarcely form 
agreeable subjects for meditation.  Love should run out to 
meet love with open arms.  Indeed, the ideal story is that of 
two people who go into love step for step, with a fluttered 
consciousness, like a pair of children venturing together into 
a dark room.  From the first moment when they see each other, 
with a pang of curiosity, through stage after stage of growing 
pleasure and embarrassment, they can read the expression of 
their own trouble in each other's eyes.  There is here no 
declaration properly so called; the feeling is so plainly 
shared, that as soon as the man knows what it is in his own 
heart, he is sure of what it is in the woman's.

This simple accident of falling in love is as beneficial 
as it is astonishing.  It arrests the petrifying influence of 
years, disproves cold-blooded and cynical conclusions, and 
awakens dormant sensibilities.  Hitherto the man had found it 
a good policy to disbelieve the existence of any enjoyment 
which was out of his reach; and thus he turned his back upon 
the strong sunny parts of nature, and accustomed himself to 
look exclusively on what was common and dull.  He accepted a 
prose ideal, let himself go blind of many sympathies by 
disuse; and if he were young and witty, or beautiful, wilfully 
forewent these advantages.  He joined himself to the following 
of what, in the old mythology of love, was prettily called 
NONCHALOIR; and in an odd mixture of feelings, a fling of 
self-respect, a preference for selfish liberty, and a great 
dash of that fear with which honest people regard serious 
interests, kept himself back from the straightforward course 
of life among certain selected activities.  And now, all of a 
sudden, he is unhorsed, like St. Paul, from his infidel 
affectation.  His heart, which has been ticking accurate 
seconds for the last year, gives a bound and begins to beat 
high and irregularly in his breast.  It seems as if he had 
never heard or felt or seen until that moment; and by the 
report of his memory, he must have lived his past life between 
sleep and waking, or with the preoccupied attention of a brown 
study.  He is practically incommoded by the generosity of his 
feelings, smiles much when he is alone, and develops a habit 
of looking rather blankly upon the moon and stars.  But it is 
not at all within the province of a prose essayist to give a 
picture of this hyperbolical frame of mind; and the thing has 
been done already, and that to admiration.  In ADELAIDE, in 
Tennyson's MAUD, and in some of Heine's songs, you get the 
absolute expression of this midsummer spirit.  Romeo and 
Juliet were very much in love; although they tell me some 
German critics are of a different opinion, probably the same 
who would have us think Mercutio a dull fellow.  Poor Antony 
was in love, and no mistake.  That lay figure Marius, in LES 
MISERABLES, is also a genuine case in his own way, and worth 
observation.  A good many of George Sand's people are 
thoroughly in love; and so are a good many of George 
Meredith's.  Altogether, there is plenty to read on the 
subject.  If the root of the matter be in him, and if he has 
the requisite chords to set in vibration, a young man may 
occasionally enter, with the key of art, into that land of 
Beulah which is upon the borders of Heaven and within sight of 
the City of Love.  There let him sit awhile to hatch 
delightful hopes and perilous illusions.

One thing that accompanies the passion in its first blush 
is certainly difficult to explain.  It comes (I do not quite 
see how) that from having a very supreme sense of pleasure in 
all parts of life - in lying down to sleep, in waking, in 
motion, in breathing, in continuing to be - the lover begins 
to regard his happiness as beneficial for the rest of the 
world and highly meritorious in himself.  Our race has never 
been able contentedly to suppose that the noise of its wars, 
conducted by a few young gentlemen in a corner of an 
inconsiderable star, does not re-echo among the courts of 
Heaven with quite a formidable effect.  In much the same 
taste, when people find a great to-do in their own breasts, 
they imagine it must have some influence in their 
neighbourhood.  The presence of the two lovers is so 
enchanting to each other that it seems as if it must be the 
best thing possible for everybody else.  They are half 
inclined to fancy it is because of them and their love that 
the sky is blue and the sun shines.  And certainly the weather 
is usually fine while people are courting. . .  In point of 
fact, although the happy man feels very kindly towards others 
of his own sex, there is apt to be something too much of the 
magnifico in his demeanour.  If people grow presuming and 
self-important over such matters as a dukedom or the Holy See, 
they will scarcely support the dizziest elevation in life 
without some suspicion of a strut; and the dizziest elevation 
is to love and be loved in return.  Consequently, accepted 
lovers are a trifle condescending in their address to other 
men.  An overweening sense of the passion and importance of 
life hardly conduces to simplicity of manner.  To women, they 
feel very nobly, very purely, and very generously, as if they 
were so many Joan-of-Arc's; but this does not come out in 
their behaviour; and they treat them to Grandisonian airs 
marked with a suspicion of fatuity.  I am not quite certain 
that women do not like this sort of thing; but really, after 
having bemused myself over DANIEL DERONDA, I have given up 
trying to understand what they like.

If it did nothing else, this sublime and ridiculous 
superstition, that the pleasure of the pair is somehow blessed 
to others, and everybody is made happier in their happiness, 
would serve at least to keep love generous and great-hearted.  
Nor is it quite a baseless superstition after all.  Other 
lovers are hugely interested.  They strike the nicest balance 
between pity and approval, when they see people aping the 
greatness of their own sentiments.  It is an understood thing 
in the play, that while the young gentlefolk are courting on 
the terrace, a rough flirtation is being carried on, and a 
light, trivial sort of love is growing up, between the footman 
and the singing chambermaid.  As people are generally cast for 
the leading parts in their own imaginations, the reader can 
apply the parallel to real life without much chance of going 
wrong.  In short, they are quite sure this other love-affair 
is not so deep seated as their own, but they like dearly to 
see it going forward.  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.

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.  Vanity in a merely personal 
sense exists no longer.  The lover takes a perilous pleasure 
in privately displaying his weak points and having them, one 
after another, accepted and condoned.  He wishes to be assured 
that he is not loved for this or that good quality, but for 
himself, or something as like himself as he can contrive to 
set forward.  For, although it may have been a very difficult 
thing to paint the marriage of Cana, or write the fourth act 
of Antony and Cleopatra, there is a more difficult piece of 
art before every one in this world who cares to set about 
explaining his own character to others.  Words and acts are 
easily wrenched from their true significance; and they are all 
the language we have to come and go upon.  A pitiful job we 
make of it, as a rule.  For better or worse, people mistake 
our meaning and take our emotions at a wrong valuation.  And 
generally we rest pretty content with our failures; we are 
content to be misapprehended by cackling flirts; but when once 
a man is moonstruck with this affection of love, he makes it a 
point of honour to clear such dubieties away.  He cannot have 
the Best of her Sex misled upon a point of this importance; 
and his pride revolts at being loved in a mistake.

He discovers a great reluctance to return on former 
periods of his life.  To all that has not been shared with 
her, rights and duties, bygone fortunes and dispositions, he 
can look back only by a difficult and repugnant effort of the 
will.  That he should have wasted some years in ignorance of 
what alone was really important, that he may have entertained 
the thought of other women with any show of complacency, is a 
burthen almost too heavy for his self-respect.  But it is the 
thought of another past that rankles in his spirit like a 
poisoned wound.  That he himself made a fashion of being alive 
in the bald, beggarly days before a certain meeting, is 
deplorable enough in all good conscience.  But that She should 
have permitted herself the same liberty seems inconsistent 
with a Divine providence.

A great many people run down jealousy, on the score that 
it is an artificial feeling, as well as practically 
inconvenient.  This is scarcely fair; for the feeling on which 
it merely attends, like an ill-humoured courtier, is itself 
artificial in exactly the same sense and to the same degree.  
I suppose what is meant by that objection is that jealousy has 
not always been a character of man; formed no part of that 
very modest kit of sentiments with which he is supposed to 
have begun the world: but waited to make its appearance in 
better days and among richer natures.  And this is equally 
true of love, and friendship, and love of country, and delight 
in what they call the beauties of nature, and most other 
things worth having.  Love, in particular, will not endure any 
historical scrutiny: to all who have fallen across it, it is 
one of the most incontestable facts in the world; but if you 
begin to ask what it was in other periods and countries, in 
Greece for instance, the strangest doubts begin to spring up, 
and everything seems so vague and changing that a dream is 
logical in comparison.  Jealousy, at any rate, is one of the 
consequences of love; you may like it or not, at pleasure; but 
there it is.

It is not exactly jealousy, however, that we feel when we 
reflect on the past of those we love.  A bundle of letters 
found after years of happy union creates no sense of 
insecurity in the present; and yet it will pain a man sharply.  
The two people entertain no vulgar doubt of each other: but 
this pre-existence of both occurs to the mind as something 
indelicate.  To be altogether right, they should have had twin 
birth together, at the same moment with the feeling that 
unites them.  Then indeed it would be simple and perfect and 
without reserve or afterthought.  Then they would understand 
each other with a fulness impossible otherwise.  There would 
be no barrier between them of associations that cannot be 
imparted.  They would be led into none of those comparisons 
that send the blood back to the heart.  And they would know 
that there had been no time lost, and they had been together 
as much as was possible.  For besides terror for the 
separation that must follow some time or other in the future, 
men feel anger, and something like remorse, when they think of 
that other separation which endured until they met.  Some one 
has written that love makes people believe in immortality, 
because there seems not to be room enough in life for so great 
a tenderness, and it is inconceivable that the most masterful 
of our emotions should have no more than the spare moments of 
a few years.  Indeed, it seems strange; but if we call to mind 
analogies, we can hardly regard it as impossible.

"The blind bow-boy," who smiles upon us from the end of 
terraces in old Dutch gardens, laughingly hails his bird-bolts 
among a fleeting generation.  But for as fast as ever he 
shoots, the game dissolves and disappears into eternity from 
under his falling arrows; this one is gone ere he is struck; 
the other has but time to make one gesture and give one 
passionate cry; and they are all the things of a moment.  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 sweet-hearts 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.


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.  Even with instruments specially contrived for such a 
purpose - with a foot rule, a level, or a theodolite - it is 
not easy to be exact; it is easier, alas! to be inexact.  From 
those who mark the divisions on a scale to those who measure 
the boundaries of empires or the distance of the heavenly 
stars, it is by careful method and minute, unwearying 
attention that men rise even to material exactness or to sure 
knowledge even of external and constant things.  But it is 
easier to draw the outline of a mountain than the changing 
appearance of a face; and truth in human relations is of this 
more intangible and dubious order: hard to seize, harder to 
communicate.  Veracity to facts in a loose, colloquial sense - 
not to say that I have been in Malabar when as a matter of 
fact I was never out of England, not to say that I have read 
Cervantes in the original when as a matter of fact I know not 
one syllable of Spanish - this, indeed, is easy and to the 
same degree unimportant in itself.  Lies of this sort, 
according to circumstances, may or may not be important; in a 
certain sense even they may or may not be false.  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.

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 the 
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.  Now, I simply open the last book I have been reading 
- Mr. Leland's captivating ENGLISH GIPSIES.  "It is said," I 
find on p. 7, "that those who can converse with Irish peasants 
in their own native tongue form far higher opinions of their 
appreciation of the beautiful, and of THE ELEMENTS OF HUMOUR 
AND PATHOS IN THEIR HEARTS, than do those who know their 
thoughts only through the medium of English.  I know from my 
own observations that this is quite the case with the Indians 
of North America, and it is unquestionably so with the gipsy."  
In short, where a man has not a full possession of the 
language, the most important, because the most amiable, 
qualities of his nature have to lie buried and fallow; for the 
pleasure of comradeship, and the intellectual part of love, 
rest upon these very "elements of humour and pathos."  Here is 
a man opulent in both, and for lack of a medium he can put 
none of it out to interest in the market of affection!  But 
what is thus made plain to our apprehensions in the case of a 
foreign language is partially true even with the tongue we 
learned in childhood.  Indeed, we all speak different 
dialects; one shall be copious and exact, another loose and 
meagre; but the speech of the ideal talker shall correspond 
and fit upon the truth of fact - not clumsily, obscuring 
lineaments, like a mantle, but cleanly adhering, like an 
athlete's skin.  And what is the result?  That the one can 
open himself more clearly to his friends, and can enjoy more 
of what makes life truly valuable - intimacy with those he 
loves.  An orator makes a false step; he employs some trivial, 
some absurd, some vulgar phrase; in the turn of a sentence he 
insults, by a side wind, those whom he is labouring to charm; 
in speaking to one sentiment he unconsciously ruffles another 
in parenthesis; and you are not surprised, for you know his 
task to be delicate and filled with perils.  "O frivolous mind 
of man, light ignorance!"  As if yourself, when you seek to 
explain some misunderstanding or excuse some apparent fault, 
speaking swiftly and addressing a mind still recently 
incensed, were not harnessing for a more perilous adventure; 
as if yourself required less tact and eloquence; as if an 
angry friend or a suspicious lover were not more easy to 
offend than a meeting of indifferent politicians!  Nay, and 
the orator treads in a beaten round; the matters he discusses 
have been discussed a thousand times before; language is 
ready-shaped to his purpose; he speaks out of a cut and dry 
vocabulary.  But you - may it not be that your defence reposes 
on some subtlety of feeling, not so much as touched upon in 
Shakespeare, to express which, like a pioneer, you must 
venture forth into zones of thought still unsurveyed, and 
become yourself a literary innovator?  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.  Do you think it is a hard 
thing to write poetry?  Why, that is to write poetry, and of a 
high, if not the highest, order.

I should even more admire "the lifelong and heroic 
literary labours" of my fellow-men, patiently clearing up in 
words their loves and their contentions, and speaking their 
autobiography daily to their wives, were it not for a 
circumstance which lessens their difficulty and my admiration 
by equal parts.  For 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.  The 
message flies by these interpreters in the least space of 
time, and the misunderstanding is averted in the moment of its 
birth.  To explain in words takes time and a just and patient 
hearing; and in the critical epochs of a close relation, 
patience and justice are not qualities on which we can rely.  
But the look or the gesture explains things in a breath; they 
tell their message without ambiguity; unlike speech, they 
cannot stumble, by the way, on a reproach or an allusion that 
should steel your friend against the truth; and then they have 
a higher authority, for they are the direct expression of the 
heart, not yet transmitted through the unfaithful and 
sophisticating brain.  Not long ago I wrote a letter to a 
friend which came near involving us in quarrel; but we met, 
and in personal talk I repeated the worst of what I had 
written, and added worse to that; and with the commentary of 
the body it seemed not unfriendly either to hear or say.  
Indeed, letters are in vain for the purposes of intimacy; an 
absence is a dead break in the relation; yet two who know each 
other fully and are bent on perpetuity in love, may so 
preserve the attitude of their affections that they may meet 
on the same terms as they had parted.

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.  Such 
people we must learn slowly by the tenor of their acts, or 
through yea and nay communications; or we take them on trust 
on the strength of a general air, and now and again, when we 
see the spirit breaking through in a flash, correct or change 
our estimate.  But these will be uphill intimacies, without 
charm or freedom, to the end; and freedom is the chief 
ingredient in confidence.  Some minds, romantically dull, 
despise physical endowments.  That is a doctrine for a 
misanthrope; to those who like their fellow-creatures it must 
always be meaningless; and, 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 and 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 passers-by 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.

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.  
And yet while the curt, pithy speaker misses the point 
entirely, a wordy, prolegomenous babbler will often add three 
new offences in the process of excusing one.  It is really a 
most delicate affair.  The world was made before the English 
language, and seemingly upon a different design.  Suppose we 
held our converse not in words, but in music; those who have a 
bad ear would find themselves cut off from all near commerce, 
and no better than foreigners in this big world.  But we do 
not consider how many have "a bad ear" for words, nor how 
often the most eloquent find nothing to reply.  I hate 
questioners and questions; there are so few that can be spoken 
to without a lie.  "DO YOU FORGIVE ME?"  Madam and sweetheart, 
so far as I have gone in life I have never yet been able to 
discover what forgiveness means.  "IS IT STILL THE SAME 
BETWEEN US?"  Why, how can it be?  It is eternally different; 
and yet you are still the friend of my heart.  "DO YOU 
UNDERSTAND ME?"  God knows; I should think it highly 

The cruellest 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.  To reconcile averted friends a 
Jesuitical discretion is often needful, not so much to gain a 
kind hearing as to communicate sober truth.  Women have an ill 
name in this connection; yet they live in as true relations; 
the lie of a good woman is the true index of her heart.

"It takes," says Thoreau, in the noblest and most useful 
passage I remember to have read in any modern author, (1) "two 
to speak truth - one to speak and another to hear."  He must 
be very little experienced, or have no great zeal for truth, 
who does not recognise the fact.  A grain of anger or a grain 
of suspicion produces strange acoustical effects, and makes 
the ear greedy to remark offence.  Hence we find those who 
have once quarrelled carry themselves distantly, and are ever 
ready to break the truce.  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 ingrained.  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 preconception; and 
wherever a person fancies himself unjustly judged, he at once 
and finally gives up the effort to speak truth.  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.  For love rests upon a physical basis; 
it is a familiarity of nature's making and apart from 
voluntary choice.  Understanding has in some sort outrun 
knowledge, for the affection perhaps began with the 
acquaintance; and as it was not made like other relations, so 
it is not, like them, to be perturbed or clouded.  Each knows 
more than can be uttered; each lives by faith, and believes by 
a natural compulsion; and between man and wife the language of 
the body is largely developed and grown strangely eloquent.  
The thought that prompted and was conveyed in a caress would 
only lose to be set down in words - ay, although Shakespeare 
himself should be the scribe.

Wednesday, p. 283.

Yet it is in these dear intimacies, beyond all others, 
that we must strive and do battle for the truth.  Let but a 
doubt arise, and alas! all the previous intimacy and 
confidence is but another charge against the person doubted.  
SO LONG AND SO COMPLETELY!"  Let but that thought gain 
entrance, and you plead before a deaf tribunal.  Appeal to the 
past; why, that is your crime!  Make all clear, convince the 
reason; alas! speciousness is but a proof against you.  "IF 

For a strong affection such moments are worth supporting, 
and they will end well; for your advocate is in your lover's 
heart and speaks her own language; it is not you but she 
herself who can defend and clear you of the charge.  But in 
slighter intimacies, and for a less stringent union?  Indeed, 
is it worth while?  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 

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 


"You know my mother now and then argues very notably; 
always very warmly at least.  I happen often to differ from 
her; and we both think so well of our own arguments, that we 
very seldom are so happy as to convince one another.  A pretty 
common case, I believe, in all VEHEMENT debatings.  She says, 
I am TOO WITTY; Anglice, TOO PERT; I, that she is TOO WISE; 
that is to say, being likewise put into English, NOT SO YOUNG 
AS SHE HAS BEEN." - Miss Howe to Miss Harlowe, CLARISSA, vol. 
ii.  Letter xiii.

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.  The one is dead, to be sure, while the other is 
still in his counting-house counting out his money; and 
doubtless this is a consideration.  But we have, on the other 
hand, some bold and magnanimous sayings common to high races 
and natures, which set forth the advantage of the losing side, 
and proclaim it better to be a dead lion than a living dog.  
It is difficult to fancy how the mediocrities reconcile such 
sayings with their proverbs.  According to the latter, every 
lad who goes to sea is an egregious ass; never to forget your 
umbrella through a long life would seem a higher and wiser 
flight of achievement than to go smiling to the stake; and so 
long as you are a bit of a coward and inflexible in money 
matters, you fulfil the whole duty of man.

It is a still more difficult consideration for our 
average men, that while all their teachers, from Solomon down 
to Benjamin Franklin and the ungodly Binney, have inculcated 
the same ideal of manners, caution, and respectability, those 
characters in history who have most notoriously flown in the 
face of such precepts are spoken of in hyperbolical terms of 
praise, and honoured with public monuments in the streets of 
our commercial centres.  This is very bewildering to the moral 
sense.  You have Joan of Arc, who left a humble but honest and 
reputable livelihood under the eyes of her parents, to go a-
colonelling, in the company of rowdy soldiers, against the 
enemies of France; surely a melancholy example for one's 
daughters!  And then you have Columbus, who may have pioneered 
America, but, when all is said, was a most imprudent 
navigator.  His life is not the kind of thing one would like 
to put into the hands of young people; rather, one would do 
one's utmost to keep it from their knowledge, as a red flag of 
adventure and disintegrating influence in life.  The time 
would fail me if I were to recite all the big names in history 
whose exploits are perfectly irrational and even shocking to 
the business mind.  The incongruity is speaking; and I imagine 
it must engender among the mediocrities a very peculiar 
attitude, towards the nobler and showier sides of national 
life.  They will read of the Charge of Balaclava in much the 
same spirit as they assist at a performance of the LYONS MAIL.  
Persons of substance take in the TIMES and sit composedly in 
pit or boxes according to the degree of their prosperity in 
business.  As for the generals who go galloping up and down 
among bomb-shells in absurd cocked hats - as for the actors 
who raddle their faces and demean themselves for hire upon the 
stage - they must belong, thank God! to a different order of 
beings, whom we watch as we watch the clouds careering in the 
windy, bottomless inane, or read about like characters in 
ancient and rather fabulous annals.  Our offspring would no 
more think of copying their behaviour, let us hope, than of 
doffing their clothes and painting themselves blue in 
consequence of certain admissions in the first chapter of 
their school history of England.

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.

"Opinion in good men," says Milton, "is but knowledge in 
the making."  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 as 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.  There are too many of these catchwords in the 
world for people to rap out upon you like an oath and by way 
of an argument.  They have a currency as intellectual 
counters; and many respectable persons pay their way with 
nothing else.  They seem to stand for vague bodies of theory 
in the background.  The imputed virtue of folios full of 
knockdown arguments is supposed to reside in them, just as 
some of the majesty of the British Empire dwells in the 
constable's truncheon.  They are used in pure superstition, as 
old clodhoppers spoil Latin by way of an exorcism.  And yet 
they are vastly serviceable for checking unprofitable 
discussion and stopping the mouths of babes and sucklings.  
And when a young man comes to a certain stage of intellectual 
growth, the examination of these counters forms a gymnastic at 
once amusing and fortifying to the mind.

Because I have reached Paris, I am not ashamed of having 
passed through Newhaven and Dieppe.  They were very good 
places to pass through, and I am none the less at my 
destination.  All my old opinions were only stages on the way 
to the one I now hold, as itself is only a stage on the way to 
something else.  I am no more abashed at having been a red-hot 
Socialist with a panacea of my own than at having been a 
sucking infant.  Doubtless the world is quite right in a 
million ways; but you have to be kicked about a little to 
convince you of the fact.  And in the meanwhile you must do 
something, be something, believe something.  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 great 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.  I submit to 
this, as I would submit to gout or gray hair, as a concomitant 
of growing age or else of failing animal heat; but I do not 
acknowledge that it is necessarily a change for the better - I 
daresay it is deplorably for the worse.  I have no choice in 
the business, and can no more resist this tendency of my mind 
than I could prevent my body from beginning to totter and 
decay.  If I am spared (as the phrase runs) I shall doubtless 
outlive some troublesome desires; but I am in no hurry about 
that; nor, when the time comes, shall I plume myself on the 
immunity just in the same way, I do not greatly pride myself 
on having outlived my belief in the fairy tales of Socialism.  
Old people have faults of their own; they tend to become 
cowardly, niggardly, and suspicious.  Whether from the growth 
of experience or the decline of animal heat, I see that age 
leads to these and certain other faults; and it follows, of 
course, that while in one sense I hope I am journeying towards 
the truth, in another I am indubitably posting towards these 
forms and sources of error.

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.  We take a sight at a condition in life, and 
say we have studied it; our most elaborate view is no more 
than an impression.  If we had breathing space, we should take 
the occasion to modify and adjust; but at this breakneck 
hurry, we are no sooner boys than we are adult, no sooner in 
love than married or jilted, no sooner one age than we begin 
to be another, and no sooner in the fulness of our manhood 
than we begin to decline towards the grave.  It is in vain to 
seek for consistency or expect clear and stable views in a 
medium so perturbed and fleeting.  This is no cabinet science, 
in which things are tested to a scruple; we theorise with a 
pistol to our head; we are confronted with a new set of 
conditions on which we have not only to pass a judgment, but 
to take action, before the hour is at an end.  And we cannot 
even regard ourselves as a constant; in this flux of things, 
our identity itself seems in a perpetual variation; and not 
infrequently we find our own disguise the strangest in the 
masquerade.  In the course of time, we grow to love things we 
hated and hate things we loved.  Milton is not so dull as he 
once was, nor perhaps Ainsworth so amusing.  It is decidedly 
harder to climb trees, and not nearly so hard to sit still.  
There is no use pretending; even the thrice royal game of hide 
and seek has somehow lost in zest.  All our attributes are 
modified or chanced 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.

And mark you, it would be no less foolish to begin at 
Gravesend with a chart of the Red Sea.  SI JEUNESSE SAVAIT, SI 
VIEILLESSE POUVAIT, is a very pretty sentiment, but not 
necessarily right.  In five cases out of ten, it is not so 
much that the young people do not know, as that they do not 
choose.  There is something irreverent in the speculation, but 
perhaps the want of power has more to do with the wise 
resolutions of age than we are always willing to admit.  It 
would be an instructive experiment to make an old man young 
again and leave him all his SAVOIR.  I scarcely think he would 
put his money in the Savings Bank after all; I doubt if he 
would be such an admirable son as we are led to expect; and as 
for his conduct in love, I believe firmly he would out-Herod 
Herod, and put the whole of his new compeers to the blush.  
Prudence is a wooden juggernaut, before whom Benjamin Franklin 
walks with the portly air of a high priest, and after whom 
dances many a successful merchant in the character of Atys.  
But it is not a deity to cultivate in youth.  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.

It is customary to say that age should be considered, 
because it comes last.  It seems just as much to the point, 
that youth comes first.  And the scale fairly kicks the beam, 
if you go on to add that age, in a majority of cases, never 
comes at all.  Disease and accident make short work of even 
the most prosperous persons; death costs nothing, and the 
expense of a headstone is an inconsiderable trifle to the 
happy heir.  To be suddenly snuffed out in the middle of 
ambitious schemes, is tragical enough at best; but when a man 
has been grudging himself his own life in the meanwhile, and 
saving up everything for the festival that was never to be, it 
becomes that hysterically moving sort of tragedy which lies on 
the confines of farce.  The victim is dead - and he has 
cunningly overreached himself: a combination of calamities 
none the less absurd for being grim.  To husband a favourite 
claret until the batch turns sour, is not at all an artful 
stroke of policy; and how much more with a whole cellar - a 
whole bodily existence!  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.  We should not compliment a hungry man, who should 
refuse a whole dinner and reserve all his appetite for the 
dessert, before he knew whether there was to be any dessert or 
not.  If there be such a thing as imprudence in the world, we 
surely have it here.  We sail in leaky bottoms and on great 
and perilous waters; and to take a cue from the dolorous old 
naval ballad, we have heard the mer-maidens singing, and know 
that we shall never see dry land any more.  Old and young, we 
are all on our last cruise.  If there is a fill of tobacco 
among the crew, for God's sake pass it round, and let us have 
a pipe before we go!

Indeed, by the report of our elders, this nervous 
preparation for old age is only trouble thrown away.  We fall 
on guard, and after all it is a friend who comes to meet us.  
After the sun is down and the west faded, the heavens begin to 
fill with shining stars.  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 the 
bore.  There are not many Doctor Johnsons, to set forth upon 
their first romantic voyage at sixty-four.  If we wish to 
scale Mont Blanc or visit a thieves' kitchen in the East End, 
to go down in a diving dress or up in a balloon, we must be 
about it while we are still young.  It will not do to delay 
until we are clogged with prudence and limping with 
rheumatism, and people begin to ask us: "What does Gravity out 
of bed?"  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.  "It is extraordinary," says Lord 
Beaconsfield, one of the brightest and best preserved of 
youths up to the date of his last novel, (1) "it is 
extraordinary how hourly and how violently change the feelings 
of an inexperienced young man."  And this mobility is a 
special talent entrusted to his care; a sort of indestructible 
virginity; a magic armour, with which he can pass unhurt 
through great dangers and come unbedaubed out of the miriest 
passages.  Let him voyage, speculate, see all that he can, do 
all that he may; his soul has as many lives as a cat; he will 
live in all weathers, and never be a halfpenny the worse.  
Those who go to 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.


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 rivetting 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 gray, or mothers 
to love their offspring, or heroes to die for something 
worthier than their lives.

By way of an apologue for the aged, when they feel more 
than usually tempted to offer their advice, let me recommend 
the following little tale.  A child who had been remarkably 
fond of toys (and in particular of lead soldiers) found 
himself growing to the level of acknowledged boyhood without 
any abatement of this childish taste.  He was thirteen; 
already he had been taunted for dallying overlong about the 
playbox; he had to blush if he was found among his lead 
soldiers; the shades of the prison-house were closing about 
him with a vengeance.  There is nothing more difficult than to 
put the thoughts of children into the language of their 
elders; but this is the effect of his meditations at this 
juncture: "Plainly," he said, "I must give up my playthings, 
in the meanwhile, since I am not in a position to secure 
myself against idle jeers.  At the same time, I am sure that 
playthings are the very pick of life; all people give them up 
out of the same pusillanimous respect for those who are a 
little older; and if they do not return to them as soon as 
they can, it is only because they grow stupid and forget.  I 
shall be wiser; I shall conform for a little to the ways of 
their foolish world; but so soon as I have made enough money, 
I shall retire and shut myself up among my playthings until 
the day I die."  Nay, as he was passing in the train along the 
Esterel mountains between Cannes and Frejus, he remarked a 
pretty house in an orange garden at the angle of a bay, and 
decided that this should be his Happy Valley.  Astrea Redux; 
childhood was to come again!  The idea has an air of simple 
nobility to me, not unworthy of Cincinnatus.  And yet, as the 
reader has probably anticipated, it is never likely to be 
carried into effect.  There was a worm i' the bud, a fatal 
error in the premises.  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.

You need repent none of your youthful vagaries.  They may 
have been over the score on one side, just as those of age are 
probably over the score on the other.  But they had a point; 
they not only befitted your age and expressed its attitude and 
passions, but they had a relation to what was outside of you, 
and implied criticisms on the existing state of things, which 
you need not allow to have been undeserved, because you now 
see that they were partial.  All error, not merely verbal, is 
a strong way of stating that the current truth is incomplete.  
The follies of youth have a basis in sound reason, just as 
much as the embarrassing questions put by babes and sucklings.  
Their most antisocial 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.  Shelley, chafing at the 
Church of England, discovered the cure of all evils in 
universal atheism.  Generous lads irritated at the injustices 
of society, see nothing for it but the abolishment of 
everything and Kingdom Come of anarchy.  Shelley was a young 
fool; so are these cocksparrow revolutionaries.  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.

In short, if youth is not quite right in its opinions, 
there is a strong probability that age is not much more so.  
Undying hope is co-ruler of the human bosom with infallible 
credulity.  A man finds he has been wrong at every preceding 
stage of his career, only to deduce the astonishing conclusion 
that he is at last entirely right.  Mankind, after centuries 
of failure, are still upon the eve of a thoroughly 
constitutional millennium.  Since we have explored the maze so 
long without result, it follows, for poor human reason, that 
we cannot have to explore much longer; close by must be the 
centre, with a champagne luncheon and a piece of ornamental 
water.  How if there were no centre at all, but just one alley 
after another, and the whole world a labyrinth without end or 

I overheard the other day a scrap of conversation, which 
I take the liberty to reproduce.  "What I advance is true," 
said one.  "But not the whole truth," answered the other.  
"Sir," returned the first (and it seemed to me there was a 
smack of Dr. Johnson in the speech), "Sir, there is no such 
thing as the whole truth!"  Indeed, there is nothing so 
evident in life as that there are two sides to a question.  
History is one long illustration.  The forces of nature are 
engaged, day by day, in cudgelling it into our backward 
intelligences.  We never pause for a moment's consideration 
but we admit it as an axiom.  An enthusiast sways humanity 
exactly by disregarding this great truth, and dinning it into 
our ears that this or that question has only one possible 
solution; and your enthusiast is a fine florid fellow, 
dominates things for a while and shakes the world out of a 
doze; but when once he is gone, an army of quiet and 
uninfluential people set to work to remind us of the other 
side and demolish the generous imposture.  While Calvin is 
putting everybody exactly right in his INSTITUTES, and hot-
headed Knox is thundering in the pulpit, Montaigne is already 
looking at the other side in his library in Perigord, and 
predicting that they will find as much to quarrel about in the 
Bible as they had found already in the Church.  Age may have 
one side, but assuredly Youth has the other.  There is nothing 
more certain than that both are right, except perhaps that 
both are wrong.  Let them agree to differ; for who knows but 
what agreeing to differ may not be a form of agreement rather 
than a form of difference?

I suppose it is written that any one who sets up for a 
bit of a philosopher, must contradict himself to his very 
face.  For here have I fairly talked myself into thinking that 
we have the whole thing before us at last; that there is no 
answer to the mystery, except that there are as many as you 
please; that there is no centre to the maze because, like the 
famous sphere, its centre is everywhere; and that agreeing to 
differ with every ceremony of politeness, is the only "one 
undisturbed song of pure concent" to which we are ever likely 
to lend our musical voices.


"BOSWELL: We grow weary when idle."
"JOHNSON: That is, sir, because others being busy, we 
want company; but if we were idle, there would be no growing 
weary; we should all entertain one another."

JUST now, when every one is bound, under pain of a decree 
in absence convicting them of LESE-respectability, to enter on 
some lucrative profession, and labour therein with something 
not far short of enthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party who 
are content when they have enough, and like to look on and 
enjoy in the meanwhile, savours a little of bravado and 
gasconade.  And yet this should not be.  Idleness so called, 
which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great 
deal not recognised in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling 
class, has as good a right to state its position as industry 
itself.  It is admitted that the presence of people who refuse 
to enter in the great handicap race for sixpenny pieces, is at 
once an insult and a disenchantment for those who do.  A fine 
fellow (as we see so many) takes his determination, votes for 
the sixpences, and in the emphatic Americanism, it "goes for" 
them.  And while such an one is ploughing distressfully up the 
road, it is not hard to understand his resentment, when he 
perceives cool persons in the meadows by the wayside, lying 
with a handkerchief over their ears and a glass at their 
elbow.  Alexander is touched in a very delicate place by the 
disregard of Diogenes.  Where was the glory of having taken 
Rome for these tumultuous barbarians, who poured into the 
Senate house, and found the Fathers sitting silent and unmoved 
by their success?  It is a sore thing to have laboured along 
and scaled the arduous hilltops, and when all is done, find 
humanity indifferent to your achievement.  Hence physicists 
condemn the unphysical; financiers have only a superficial 
toleration for those who know little of stocks; literary 
persons despise the unlettered; and people of all pursuits 
combine to disparage those who have none.

But though this is one difficulty of the subject, it is 
not the greatest.  You could not be put in prison for speaking 
against industry, but you can be sent to Coventry for speaking 
like a fool.  The greatest difficulty with most subjects is to 
do them well; therefore, please to remember this is an 
apology.  It is certain that much may be judiciously argued in 
favour of diligence; only there is something to be said 
against it, and that is what, on the present occasion, I have 
to say.  To state one argument is not necessarily to be deaf 
to all others, and that a man has written a book of travels in 
Montenegro, is no reason why he should never have been to 

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.  It 
must have been a very foolish old gentleman who addressed 
Johnson at Oxford in these words: "Young man, ply your book 
diligently now, and acquire a stock of knowledge; for when 
years come upon you, you will find that poring upon books will 
be but an irksome task."  The old gentleman seems to have been 
unaware that many other things besides reading grow irksome, 
and not a few become impossible, by the time a man has to use 
spectacles and cannot walk without a stick.  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.

If you look back on your own education, I am sure it will 
not be the full, vivid, instructive hours of truantry that you 
regret; you would rather cancel some lack-lustre periods 
between sleep and waking in the class.  For my own part, I 
have attended a good many lectures in my time.  I still 
remember that the spinning of a top is a case of Kinetic 
Stability.  I still remember that Emphyteusis is not a 
disease, nor Stillicide a crime.  But though I would not 
willingly part with such scraps of science, I do not set the 
same store by them as by certain other odds and ends that I 
came by in the open street while I was playing truant.  This 
is not the moment to dilate on that mighty place of education, 
which was the favourite school of Dickens and of Balzac, and 
turns out yearly many inglorious masters in the Science of the 
Aspects of Life.  Suffice it to say this: if a lad does not 
learn in the streets, it is because he has no faculty of 
learning.  Nor is the truant always in the streets, for if he 
prefers, he may go out by the gardened suburbs into the 
country.  He may pitch on some tuft of lilacs over a burn, and 
smoke innumerable pipes to the tune of the water on the 
stones.  A bird will sing in the thicket.  And there he may 
fall into a vein of kindly thought, and see things in a new 
perspective.  Why, if this be not education, what is?  We may 
conceive Mr. Worldly Wiseman accosting such an one, and the 
conversation that should thereupon ensue:-

"How now, young fellow, what dost thou here?"

"Truly, sir, I take mine ease."

"Is not this the hour of the class? and should'st thou 
not be plying thy Book with diligence, to the end thou mayest 
obtain knowledge?"

"Nay, but thus also I follow after Learning, by your 

"Learning, quotha!  After what fashion, I pray thee?  Is 
it mathematics?"

"No, to be sure."

"Is it metaphysics?"

"Nor that."

"Is it some language?"

"Nay, it is no language."

"Is it a trade?"

"Nor a trade neither."

"Why, then, what is't?"

"Indeed, sir, as a time may soon come for me to go upon 
Pilgrimage, I am desirous to note what is commonly done by 
persons in my case, and where are the ugliest Sloughs and 
Thickets on the Road; as also, what manner of Staff is of the 
best service.  Moreover, I lie here, by this water, to learn 
by root-of-heart a lesson which my master teaches me to call 
Peace, or Contentment."

Hereupon Mr. Worldly Wiseman was much commoved with 
passion, and shaking his cane with a very threatful 
countenance, broke forth upon this wise: "Learning, quotha!" 
said he; "I would have all such rogues scourged by the 

And so he would go his way, ruffling out his cravat with 
a crackle of starch, like a turkey when it spread its 

Now this, of Mr. Wiseman's, is the common opinion.  A 
fact is not called a fact, but a piece of gossip, if it does 
not fall into one of your scholastic categories.  An inquiry 
must be in some acknowledged direction, with a name to go by; 
or else you are not inquiring at all, only lounging; and the 
work-house is too good for you.  It is supposed that all 
knowledge is at the bottom of a well, or the far end of a 
telescope.  Sainte-Beuve, as he grew older, came to regard all 
experience as a single great book, in which to study for a few 
years ere we go hence; and it seemed all one to him whether 
you should read in Chapter xx., which is the differential 
calculus, or in Chapter xxxix., which is hearing the band play 
in the gardens.  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 be out, your truant may 
learn some really useful art: to play the fiddle, to know a 
good cigar, 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.  The shadows and the 
generations, the shrill doctors and the plangent wars, go by 
into ultimate silence and emptiness; but underneath all this, 
a man may see, out of the Belvedere windows, much green and 
peaceful landscape; many firelit parlours; good people 
laughing, drinking, and making love as they did before the 
Flood or the French Revolution; and the old shepherd telling 
his tale under the hawthorn.

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.  When they do not require to go to the office, when they 
are not hungry and have no mind to drink, the whole breathing 
world is a blank to them.  If they have to wait an hour or so 
for a train, they fall into a stupid trance with their eyes 
open.  To see them, you would suppose there was nothing to 
look at and no one to speak with; you would imagine they were 
paralysed or alienated; and yet very possibly they are hard 
workers in their own way, and have good eyesight for a flaw in 
a deed or a turn of the market.  They have been to school and 
college, but all the time they had their eye on the medal; 
they have gone about in the world and mixed with clever 
people, but all the time they were thinking of their own 
affairs.  As if a man's soul were not too small to begin with, 
they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work 
and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless 
attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not 
one thought to rub against another, while they wait for the 
train.  Before he was breeched, he might have clambered on the 
boxes; when he was twenty, he would have stared at the girls; 
but now the pipe is smoked out, the snuff-box empty, and my 
gentleman sits bolt upright upon a bench, with lamentable 
eyes.  This does not appeal to me as being Success in Life.

But it is not only the person himself who suffers from 
his busy habits, but his wife and children, his friends and 
relations, and down to the very people he sits with in a 
railway carriage or an omnibus.  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.  You are no doubt very dependent 
on the care of your lawyer and stockbroker, of the guards and 
signalmen who convey you rapidly from place to place, and the 
policemen who walk the streets for your protection; but is 
there not a thought of gratitude in your heart for certain 
other benefactors who set you smiling when they fall in your 
way, or season your dinner with good company?  Colonel Newcome 
helped to lose his friend's money; Fred Bayham had an ugly 
trick of borrowing shirts; and yet they were better people to 
fall among than Mr. Barnes.  And though Falstaff was neither 
sober nor very honest, I think I could name one or two long-
faced Barabbases whom the world could better have done 
without.  Hazlitt mentions that he was more sensible of 
obligation to Northcote, who had never done him anything he 
could call a service, than to his whole circle of ostentatious 
friends; for he thought a good companion emphatically the 
greatest benefactor.  I know there are people in the world who 
cannot feel grateful unless the favour has been done them at 
the cost of pain and difficulty.  But this is a churlish 
disposition.  A man may send you six sheets of letter-paper 
covered with the most entertaining gossip, or you may pass 
half an hour pleasantly, perhaps profitably, over an article 
of his; do you think the service would be greater, if he had 
made the manuscript in his heart's blood, like a compact with 
the devil?  Do you really fancy you should be more beholden to 
your correspondent, if he had been damning you all the while 
for your importunity?  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 
to 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.  The 
other day, a ragged, barefoot boy ran down the street after a 
marble, with so jolly an air that he set every one he passed 
into a good humour; one of these persons, who had been 
delivered from more than usually black thoughts, stopped the 
little fellow and gave him some money with this remark: "You 
see what sometimes comes of looking pleased."  If he had 
looked pleased before, he had now to look both pleased and 
mystified.  For my part, I justify this encouragement of 
smiling rather than tearful children; I do not wish to pay for 
tears anywhere but upon the stage; but I am prepared to deal 
largely in the opposite commodity.  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.  Consequently, 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.  They could easier do without his services in 
the Circumlocution Office, than they can tolerate his 
fractious spirits.  He poisons life at the well-head.  It is 
better to be beggared out of hand by a scapegrace nephew, than 
daily hag-ridden by a peevish uncle.

And what, in God's name, is all this pother about?  For 
what cause do they embitter their own and other people's 
lives?  That a man should publish three or thirty articles a 
year, that he should finish or not finish his great 
allegorical picture, are questions of little interest to the 
world.  The ranks of life are full; and although a thousand 
fall, there are always some to go into the breach.  When they 
told Joan of Arc she should be at home minding women's work, 
she answered there were plenty to spin and wash.  And so, even 
with your own rare gifts!  When nature is "so careless of the 
single life," why should we coddle ourselves into the fancy 
that our own is of exceptional importance?  Suppose 
Shakespeare had been knocked on the head some dark night in 
Sir Thomas Lucy's preserves, the world would have wagged on 
better or worse, the pitcher gone to the well, the scythe to 
the corn, and the student to his book; and no one been any the 
wiser of the loss.  There are not many works extant, if you 
look the alternative all over, which are worth the price of a 
pound of tobacco to a man of limited means.  This is a 
sobering reflection for the proudest of our earthly vanities.  
Even a tobacconist may, upon consideration, find no great 
cause for personal vainglory in the phrase; for although 
tobacco is an admirable sedative, the qualities necessary for 
retailing it are neither rare nor precious in themselves.  
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.


BY a curious irony of fate, the places to which we are 
sent when health deserts us are often singularly beautiful.  
Often, too, they are places we have visited in former years, 
or seen briefly in passing by, and kept ever afterwards in 
pious memory; and we please ourselves with the fancy that we 
shall repeat many vivid and pleasurable sensations, and take 
up again the thread of our enjoyment in the same spirit as we 
let it fall.  We shall now have an opportunity of finishing 
many pleasant excursions, interrupted of yore before our 
curiosity was fully satisfied.  It may be that we have kept in 
mind, during all these years, the recollection of some valley 
into which we have just looked down for a moment before we 
lost sight of it in the disorder of the hills; it may be that 
we have lain awake at night, and agreeably tantalised 
ourselves with the thought of corners we had never turned, or 
summits we had all but climbed: we shall now be able, as we 
tell ourselves, to complete all these unfinished pleasures, 
and pass beyond the barriers that confined our recollections.

The promise is so great, and we are all so easily led 
away when hope and memory are both in one story, that I 
daresay the sick man is not very inconsolable when he receives 
sentence of banishment, and is inclined to regard his ill-
health as not the least fortunate accident of his life.  Nor 
is he immediately undeceived.  The stir and speed of the 
journey, and the restlessness that goes to bed with him as he 
tries to sleep between two days of noisy progress, fever him, 
and stimulate his dull nerves into something of their old 
quickness and sensibility.  And so he can enjoy the faint 
autumnal splendour of the landscape, as he sees hill and 
plain, vineyard and forest, clad in one wonderful glory of 
fairy gold, which the first great winds of winter will 
transmute, as in the fable, into withered leaves.  And so too 
he can enjoy the admirable brevity and simplicity of such 
little glimpses of country and country ways as flash upon him 
through the windows of the train; little glimpses that have a 
character all their own; sights seen as a travelling swallow 
might see them from the wing, or Iris as she went abroad over 
the land on some Olympian errand.  Here and there, indeed, a 
few children huzzah and wave their hands to the express; but 
for the most part it is an interruption too brief and isolated 
to attract much notice; the sheep do not cease from browsing; 
a girl sits balanced on the projecting tiller of a canal boat, 
so precariously that it seems as if a fly or the splash of a 
leaping fish would be enough to overthrow the dainty 
equilibrium, and yet all these hundreds of tons of coal and 
wood and iron have been precipitated roaring past her very 
ear, and there is not a start, not a tremor, not a turn of the 
averted head, to indicate that she has been even conscious of 
its passage.  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 toward the 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.

Moreover, there is still before the invalid the shock of 
wonder and delight with which he will learn that he has passed 
the indefinable line that separates South from North.  And 
this is an uncertain moment; for sometimes the consciousness 
is forced upon him early, on the occasion of some slight 
association, a colour, a flower, or a scent; and sometimes not 
until, one fine morning, he wakes up with the southern 
sunshine peeping through the PERSIENNES, and the southern 
patois confusedly audible below the windows.  Whether it come 
early or late, however, this pleasure will not end with the 
anticipation, as do so many others of the same family.  It 
will leave him wider awake than it found him, and give a new 
significance to all he may see for many days to come.  There 
is something in the mere name of the South that carries 
enthusiasm along with it.  At the sound of the word, he pricks 
up his ears; he becomes as anxious to seek out beauties and to 
get by heart the permanent lines and character of the 
landscape, as if he had been told that it was all his own - an 
estate out of which he had been kept unjustly, and which he 
was now to receive in free and full possession.  Even those 
who have never been there before feel as if they had been; and 
everybody goes comparing, and seeking for the familiar, and 
finding it with such ecstasies of recognition, that one would 
think they were coming home after a weary absence, instead of 
travelling hourly farther abroad.

It is only after he is fairly arrived and settled down in 
his chosen corner, that the invalid begins to understand the 
change that has befallen him.  Everything about him is as he 
had remembered, or as he had anticipated.  Here, at his feet, 
under his eyes, are the olive gardens and the blue sea.  
Nothing can change the eternal magnificence of form of the 
naked Alps behind Mentone; nothing, not even the crude curves 
of the railway, can utterly deform the suavity of contour of 
one bay after another along the whole reach of the Riviera.  
And of all this, he has only a cold head knowledge that is 
divorced from enjoyment.  He recognises with his intelligence 
that this thing and that thing is beautiful, while in his 
heart of hearts he has to confess that it is not beautiful for 
him.  It is in vain that he spurs his discouraged spirit; in 
vain that he chooses out points of view, and stands there, 
looking with all his eyes, and waiting for some return of the 
pleasure that he remembers in other days, as the sick folk may 
have awaited the coming of the angel at the pool of Bethesda.  
He is like an enthusiast leading about with him a stolid, 
indifferent tourist.  There is some one by who is out of 
sympathy with the scene, and is not moved up to the measure of 
the occasion; and that some one is himself.  The world is 
disenchanted for him.  He seems to himself to touch things 
with muffled hands, and to see them through a veil.  His life 
becomes a palsied fumbling after notes that are silent when he 
has found and struck them.  He cannot recognise that this 
phlegmatic and unimpressionable body with which he now goes 
burthened, is the same that he knew heretofore so quick and 
delicate and alive.

He is tempted to lay the blame on the very softness and 
amenity of the climate, and to fancy that in the rigours of 
the winter at home, these dead emotions would revive and 
flourish.  A longing for the brightness and silence of fallen 
snow seizes him at such times.  He is homesick for the hale 
rough weather; for the tracery of the frost upon his window-
panes at morning, the reluctant descent of the first flakes, 
and the white roofs relieved against the sombre sky.  And yet 
the stuff of which these yearnings are made, is of the 
flimsiest: if but the thermometer fall a little below its 
ordinary Mediterranean level, or a wind come down from the 
snow-clad Alps behind, the spirit of his fancies changes upon 
the instant, and many a doleful vignette of the grim wintry 
streets at home returns to him, and begins to haunt his 
memory.  The hopeless, huddled attitude of tramps in doorways; 
the flinching gait of barefoot children on the icy pavement; 
the sheen of the rainy streets towards afternoon; the 
meagreanatomy of the poor defined by the clinging of wet 
garments; the high canorous note of the North-easter on days 
when the very houses seem to stiffen with cold: these, and 
such as these, crowd back upon him, and mockingly substitute 
themselves for the fanciful winter scenes with which he had 
pleased himself a while before.  He cannot be glad enough that 
he is where he is.  If only the others could be there also; if 
only those tramps could lie down for a little in the sunshine, 
and those children warm their feet, this once, upon a kindlier 
earth; if only there were no cold anywhere, and no nakedness, 
and no hunger; if only it were as well with all men as it is 
with him!

For it is not altogether ill with the invalid, after all.  
If it is only rarely that anything penetrates vividly into his 
numbed spirit, yet, when anything does, it brings with it a 
joy that is all the more poignant for its very rarity.  There 
is something pathetic in these occasional returns of a glad 
activity of heart.  In his lowest hours he will be stirred and 
awakened by many such; and they will spring perhaps from very 
trivial sources; as a friend once said to me, the "spirit of 
delight" comes often on small wings.  For 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 home-land 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.  
And if this falls out capriciously with the healthy, how much 
more so with the invalid.  Some day he will find his first 
violet, and be lost in pleasant wonder, by what alchemy the 
cold earth of the clods, and the vapid air and rain, can be 
transmuted into colour so rich and odour so touchingly sweet.  
Or perhaps he may see a group of washerwomen relieved, on a 
spit of shingle, against the blue sea, or a meeting of flower-
gatherers in the tempered daylight of an olive-garden; and 
something significant or monumental in the grouping, something 
in the harmony of faint colour that is always characteristic 
of the dress of these southern women, will come borne to him 
unexpectedly, and awake in him that satisfaction with which we 
tell ourselves that we are the richer by one more beautiful 
experience.  Or it may be something even slighter: as when the 
opulence of the sunshine, which somehow gets lost and fails to 
produce its effect on the large scale, is suddenly revealed to 
him by the chance isolation - as he changes the position of 
his sunshade - of a yard or two of roadway with its stones and 
weeds.  And then, there is no end to the infinite variety of 
the olive-yards themselves.  Even the colour is indeterminate 
and continually shifting: now you would say it was green, now 
gray, now blue; now tree stands above tree, like "cloud on 
cloud," massed into filmy indistinctness; and now, at the 
wind's will, the whole sea of foliage is shaken and broken up 
with little momentary silverings and shadows.  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 effects, with canes 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 underwood; of the empurpled hills standing up, 
solemn and sharp, out of the green-gold air of the east at 

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.  Who can forget how, when he has chanced upon some 
attitude of complete restfulness, after long uneasy rolling to 
and fro on grass or heather, the whole fashion of the 
landscape has been changed for him, as though the sun had just 
broken forth, or a great artist had only then completed, by 
some cunning touch, the composition of the picture?  And not 
only a change of posture - a snatch of perfume, the sudden 
singing of a bird, the freshness of some pulse of air from an 
invisible sea, the light shadow of a travelling cloud, the 
merest nothing that sends a little shiver along the most 
infinitesimal nerve of a man's body - not one of the least of 
these but has a hand somehow in the general effect, and brings 
some refinement of its own into the character of the pleasure 
we feel.

And if the external conditions are thus varied and 
subtle, even more so are those within our own bodies.  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 
makes 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.

It is not in such numbness of spirit only that the life 
of the invalid resembles a premature old age.  Those 
excursions that he had promised himself to finish, prove too 
long or too arduous for his feeble body; and the barrier-hills 
are as impassable as ever.  Many a white town that sits far 
out on the promontory, many a comely fold of wood on the 
mountain side, beckons and allures his imagination day after 
day, and is yet as inaccessible to his feet as the clefts and 
gorges of the clouds.  The sense of distance grows upon him 
wonderfully; and after some feverish efforts and the fretful 
uneasiness of the first few days, he falls contentedly in with 
the restrictions of his weakness.  His narrow round becomes 
pleasant and familiar to him as the cell to a contented 
prisoner.  Just as he has fallen already out of the mid race 
of active life, he now falls out of the little eddy that 
circulates in the shallow waters of the sanatorium.  He sees 
the country people come and go about their everyday affairs, 
the foreigners stream out in goodly pleasure parties; the stir 
of man's activity is all about him, as he suns himself inertly 
in some sheltered corner; and he looks on with a patriarchal 
impersonality of interest, such as a man may feel when he 
pictures to himself the fortunes of his remote descendants, or 
the robust old age of the oak he has planted over-night.

In this falling aside, in this quietude and desertion of 
other men, there is no inharmonious prelude to the last 
quietude and desertion of the grave; in this dulness of the 
senses there is a gentle preparation for the final 
insensibility of death.  And to him the idea of mortality 
comes in a shape less violent and harsh than is its wont, less 
as an abrupt catastrophe than as a thing of infinitesimal 
gradation, and the last step on a long decline of way.  As we 
turn to and fro in bed, and every moment the movements grow 
feebler and smaller and the attitude more restful and easy, 
until sleep overtakes us at a stride and we move no more, so 
desire after desire leaves him; day by day his strength 
decreases, and the circle of his activity grows ever narrower; 
and he feels, if he is to be thus tenderly weaned from the 
passion of life, thus gradually inducted into the slumber of 
death, that when at last the end comes, it will come quietly 
and fitly.  If anything is to reconcile poor spirits to the 
coming of the last enemy, surely it should be such a mild 
approach as this; not to hale us forth with violence, but to 
persuade us from a place we have no further pleasure in.  It 
is not so much, indeed, death that approaches as life that 
withdraws and withers up from round about him.  He has 
outlived his own usefulness, and almost his own enjoyment; and 
if there is to be no recovery; if never again will he be young 
and strong and passionate, if the actual present shall be to 
him always like a thing read in a book or remembered out of 
the far-away past; if, in fact, this be veritably nightfall, 
he will not wish greatly for the continuance of a twilight 
that only strains and disappoints the eyes, but steadfastly 
await the perfect darkness.  He will pray for Medea: when she 
comes, let her either rejuvenate or slay.

And yet the ties that still attach him to the world are 
many and kindly.  The sight of children has a significance for 
him such as it may have for the aged also, but not for others.  
If he has been used to feel humanely, and to look upon life 
somewhat more widely than from the narrow loophole of personal 
pleasure and advancement, it is strange how small a portion of 
his thoughts will be changed or embittered by this proximity 
of death.  He knows that already, in English counties, the 
sower follows the ploughman up the face of the field, and the 
rooks follow the sower; and he knows also that he may not live 
to go home again and see the corn spring and ripen, and be cut 
down at last, and brought home with gladness.  And yet the 
future of this harvest, the continuance of drought or the 
coming of rain unseasonably, touch him as sensibly as ever.  
For he has long been used to wait with interest the issue of 
events in which his own concern was nothing; and to be joyful 
in a plenty, and sorrowful for a famine, that did not increase 
or diminish, by one half loaf, the equable sufficiency of his 
own supply.  Thus there remain unaltered all the disinterested 
hopes for mankind and a better future which have been the 
solace and inspiration of his life.  These he has set beyond 
the reach of any fate that only menaces himself; and it makes 
small difference whether he die five thousand years, or five 
thousand and fifty years, before the good epoch for which he 
faithfully labours.  He has not deceived himself; he has known 
from the beginning that he followed the pillar of fire and 
cloud, only to perish himself in the wilderness, and that it 
was reserved for others to enter joyfully into possession of 
the land.  And so, as everything grows grayer and quieter 
about him, and slopes towards extinction, these unfaded 
visions accompany his sad decline, and follow him, with 
friendly voices and hopeful words, into the very vestibule of 
death.  The desire of love or of fame scarcely moved him, in 
his days of health, more strongly than these generous 
aspirations move him now; and so life is carried forward 
beyond life, and a vista kept open for the eyes of hope, even 
when his hands grope already on the face of the impassable.

Lastly, he is bound tenderly to life by the thought of 
his friends; or shall we not say rather, that by their thought 
for him, by their unchangeable solicitude and love, he remains 
woven into the very stuff of life, beyond the power of bodily 
dissolution to undo?  In a thousand ways will he survive and 
be perpetuated.  Much of Etienne de la Boetie survived during 
all the years in which Montaigne continued to converse with 
him on the pages of the ever-delightful essays.  Much of what 
was truly Goethe was dead already when he revisited places 
that knew him no more, and found no better consolation than 
the promise of his own verses, that soon he too would be at 
rest.  Indeed, when we think of what it is that we most seek 
and cherish, and find most pride and pleasure in calling ours, 
it will sometimes seem to us as if our friends, at our 
decease, would suffer loss more truly than ourselves.  As a 
monarch who should care more for the outlying colonies he 
knows on the map or through the report of his vicegerents, 
than for the trunk of his empire under his eyes at home, are 
we not more concerned about the shadowy life that we have in 
the hearts of others, and that portion in their thoughts and 
fancies which, in a certain far-away sense, belongs to us, 
than about the real knot of our identity - that central 
metropolis of self, of which alone we are immediately aware - 
or the diligent service of arteries and veins and 
infinitesimal activity of ganglia, which we know (as we know a 
proposition in Euclid) to be the source and substance of the 
whole?  At the death of every one whom we love, some fair and 
honourable portion of our existence falls away, and we are 
dislodged from one of these dear provinces; and they are not, 
perhaps, the most fortunate who survive a long series of such 
impoverishments, till their life and influence narrow 
gradually into the meagre limit of their own spirits, and 
death, when he comes at last, can destroy them at one blow.

NOTE. - To this essay I must in honesty append a word or 
two of qualification; for this is one of the points on which a 
slightly greater age teaches us a slightly different wisdom:

A youth delights in generalities, and keeps loose from 
particular obligations; he jogs on the footpath way, himself 
pursuing butterflies, but courteously lending his applause to 
the advance of the human species and the coming of the kingdom 
of justice and love.  As he grows older, he begins to think 
more narrowly of man's action in the general, and perhaps more 
arrogantly of his own in the particular.  He has not that same 
unspeakable trust in what he would have done had he been 
spared, seeing finally that that would have been little; but 
he has a far higher notion of the blank that he will make by 
dying.  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.

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 
responsibility; 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.  A man does not only 
reflect upon what he might have done in a future that is never 
to be his; but beholding himself so early a deserter from the 
fight, he eats his heart for the good he might have done 
already.  To have been so useless and now to lose all hope of 
being useful any more - there it is that death and memory 
assail him.  And even if mankind shall go on, founding heroic 
cities, practising heroic virtues, rising steadily from 
strength to strength; even if his work shall be fulfilled, his 
friends consoled, his wife remarried by a better than he; how 
shall this alter, in one jot, his estimation of a career which 
was his only business in this world, which was so fitfully 
pursued, and which is now so ineffectively to end?


THE changes wrought by death are in themselves so sharp 
and final, and so terrible and melancholy in their 
consequences, that the thing stands alone in man's experience, 
and has no parallel upon earth.  It outdoes all other 
accidents because it is the last of them.  Sometimes it leaps 
suddenly upon its victims, like a Thug; sometimes it lays a 
regular siege and creeps upon their citadel during a score of 
years.  And when the business is done, there is sore havoc 
made in other people's lives, and a pin knocked out by which 
many subsidiary friendships hung together.  There are empty 
chairs, solitary walks, and single beds at night.  Again, in 
taking away our friends, death does not take them away 
utterly, but leaves behind a mocking, tragical, and soon 
intolerable residue, which must be hurriedly concealed.  Hence 
a whole chapter of sights and customs striking to the mind, 
from the pyramids of Egypt to the gibbets and dule trees of 
mediaeval Europe.  The poorest persons have a bit of pageant 
going towards the tomb; memorial stones are set up over the 
least memorable; and, in order to preserve some show of 
respect for what remains of our old loves and friendships, we 
must accompany it with much grimly ludicrous ceremonial, and 
the hired undertaker parades before the door.  All this, and 
much more of the same sort, accompanied by the eloquence of 
poets, has gone a great way to put humanity in error; nay, in 
many philosophies the error has been embodied and laid down 
with every circumstance of logic; although in real life the 
bustle and swiftness, in leaving people little time to think, 
have not left them time enough to go dangerously wrong in 

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.  
We have all heard of cities in South America built upon the 
side of fiery mountains, and how, even in this tremendous 
neighbourhood, the inhabitants are not a jot more impressed by 
the solemnity of mortal conditions than if they were delving 
gardens in the greenest corner of England.  There are 
serenades and suppers and much gallantry among the myrtles 
overhead; and meanwhile the foundation shudders underfoot, the 
bowels of the mountain growl, and at any moment living ruin 
may leap sky-high into the moonlight, and tumble man and his 
merry-making in the dust.  In the eyes of very young people, 
and very dull old ones, there is something indescribably 
reckless and desperate in such a picture.  It seems not 
credible that respectable married people, with umbrellas, 
should find appetite for a bit of supper within quite a long 
distance of a fiery mountain; ordinary life begins to smell of 
high-handed debauch when it is carried on so close to a 
catastrophe; and even cheese and salad, it seems, could hardly 
be relished in such circumstances without something like a 
defiance of the Creator.  It should be a place for nobody but 
hermits dwelling in prayer and maceration, or mere born-devils 
drowning care in a perpetual carouse.

And yet, when one comes to think upon it calmly, the 
situation of these South American citizens forms only a very 
pale figure for the state of ordinary mankind.  This world 
itself, travelling blindly and swiftly in over-crowded space, 
among a million other worlds travelling blindly and swiftly in 
contrary directions, may very well come by a knock that would 
set it into explosion like a penny squib.  And what, 
pathologically looked at, is the human body with all its 
organs, but a mere bagful of petards?  The least of these is 
as dangerous to the whole economy as the ship's powder-
magazine to the ship; and with every breath we breathe, and 
every meal we eat, we are putting one or more of them in 
peril.  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?  For, after a certain distance, every step we 
take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet, 
and all around us and behind us we see our contemporaries 
going through.  By the time a man gets well into the 
seventies, his continued existence is a mere miracle, and when 
he lays his old bones in bed for the night, there is an 
overwhelming probability that he will never see the day.  Do 
the old men mind it, as a matter of fact?  Why, no.  They were 
never merrier; they have their grog at night, and tell the 
raciest stories; they hear of the death of people about their 
own age, or even younger, not as if it was a grisly warning, 
but with a simple childlike pleasure at having outlived some 
one else; and when a draught might puff them out like a 
guttering candle, or a bit of a stumble shatter them like so 
much glass, their old hearts keep sound and unaffrighted, and 
they go on, bubbling with laughter, through years of man's age 
compared to which the valley at Balaklava was as safe and 
peaceful as a village cricket-green on Sunday.  It may fairly 
be questioned (if we look to the peril only) whether it was a 
much more daring feat for Curtius to plunge into the gulf, 
than for any old gentleman of ninety to doff his clothes and 
clamber into bed.

Indeed, it is a memorable subject for consideration, with 
what unconcern and gaiety mankind pricks on along the Valley 
of the Shadow of Death.  The whole way is one wilderness of 
snares, and the end of it, for those who fear the last pinch, 
is irrevocable ruin.  And yet we go spinning through it all, 
like a party for the Derby.  Perhaps the reader remembers one 
of the humorous devices of the deified Caligula: how he 
encouraged a vast concourse of holiday-makers on to his bridge 
over Baiae bay; and when they were in the height of their 
enjoyment, turned loose the Praetorian guards among the 
company, and had them tossed into the sea.  This is no bad 
miniature of the dealings of nature with the transitory race 
of man.  Only, what a chequered picnic we have of it, even 
while it lasts! and into what great waters, not to be crossed 
by any swimmer, God's pale Praetorian throws us over in the 

We live the time that a match flickers; we pop the cork 
of a ginger-beer bottle, and the earthquake swallows us on the 
instant.  Is it not odd, is it not incongruous, is it not, in 
the highest sense of human speech, incredible, that we should 
think so highly of the ginger-beer, and regard so little the 
devouring earthquake?  The love of Life and the fear of Death 
are two famous phrases that grow harder to understand the more 
we think about them.  It is a well-known fact that an immense 
proportion of boat accidents would never happen if people held 
the sheet in their hands instead of making it fast; and yet, 
unless it be some martinet of a professional mariner or some 
landsman with shattered nerves, every one of God's creatures 
makes it fast.  A strange instance of man's unconcern and 
brazen boldness in the face of death!

We confound ourselves with metaphysical phrases, which we 
import into daily talk with noble inappropriateness.  We have 
no idea of what death is, apart from its circumstances and 
some of its consequences to others; and although we have some 
experience of living, there is not a man on earth who has 
flown so high into abstraction as to have any practical guess 
at the meaning of the word LIFE.  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.  Into 
the views of the least careful there will enter some degree of 
providence; no man's eyes are fixed entirely on the passing 
hour; but although we have some anticipation of good health, 
good weather, wine, active employment, love, and self-
approval, the sum of these anticipations does not amount to 
anything like a general view of life's possibilities and 
issues; nor are those who cherish them most vividly, at all 
the most scrupulous of their personal safety.  To be deeply 
interested in the accidents of our existence, to enjoy keenly 
the mixed texture of human experience, rather leads a man to 
disregard precautions, and risk his neck against a straw.  For 
surely the love of living is stronger in an Alpine climber 
roping over a peril, or a hunter riding merrily at a stiff 
fence, than in a creature who lives upon a diet and walks a 
measured distance in the interest of his constitution.

There is a great deal of very vile nonsense talked upon 
both sides of the matter: tearing divines reducing life to the 
dimensions of a mere funeral procession, so short as to be 
hardly decent; and melancholy unbelievers yearning for the 
tomb as if it were a world too far away.  Both sides must feel 
a little ashamed of their performances now and again when they 
draw in their chairs to dinner.  Indeed, a good meal and a 
bottle of wine is an answer to most standard works upon the 
question.  When a man's heart warms to his viands, he forgets 
a great deal of sophistry, and soars into a rosy zone of 
contemplation.  Death may be knocking at the door, like the 
Commander's statue; we have something else in hand, thank God, 
and let him knock.  Passing bells are ringing all the world 
over.  All the world over, and every hour, some one is parting 
company with all his aches and ecstasies.  For us also the 
trap is laid.  But we are so fond of life that we have no 
leisure to entertain the terror of death.  It is a honeymoon 
with us all through, and none of the longest.  Small blame to 
us if we give our whole hearts to this glowing bride of ours, 
to the appetites, to honour, to the hungry curiosity of the 
mind, to the pleasure of the eyes in nature, and the pride of 
our own nimble bodies.

We all of us appreciate the sensations; but as for caring 
about the Permanence of the Possibility, a man's head is 
generally very bald, and his senses very dull, before he comes 
to that.  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.  No one surely could have recoiled with more heartache 
and terror from the thought of death than our respected 
lexicographer; and yet we know how little it affected his 
conduct, how wisely and boldly he walked, and in what a fresh 
and lively vein he spoke of life.  Already an old man, he 
ventured on his Highland tour; and his heart, bound with 
triple brass, did not recoil before twenty-seven individual 
cups of tea.  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.

And not only well armoured for himself, but a good friend 
and a good citizen to boot.  We do not go to cowards for 
tender dealing; there is nothing so cruel as panic; the man 
who has least fear for his own carcase, has most time to 
consider others.  That eminent chemist who took his walks 
abroad in tin shoes, and subsisted wholly upon tepid milk, had 
all his work cut out for him in considerate dealings with his 
own digestion.  So soon as prudence has begun to grow up in 
the brain, like a dismal fungus, it finds its first expression 
in a paralysis of generous acts.  The victim begins to shrink 
spiritually; he develops a fancy for parlours with a regulated 
temperature, and takes his morality on the principle of tin 
shoes and tepid milk.  The care of one important body or soul 
becomes so engrossing, that all the noises of the outer world 
begin to come thin and faint into the parlour with the 
regulated temperature; and the tin shoes go equably forward 
over blood and rain.  To be overwise is to ossify; and the 
scruple-monger ends by standing stockstill.  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.  Lord look after his 
health, Lord have a care of his soul, says he; and he has at 
the key of the position, and swashes through incongruity and 
peril towards his aim.  Death is on all sides of him with 
pointed batteries, as he is on all sides of all of us; 
unfortunate surprises gird him round; mim-mouthed friends and 
relations hold up their hands in quite a little elegiacal 
synod about his path: and what cares he for all this?  Being a 
true lover of living, a fellow with something pushing and 
spontaneous in his inside, he must, like any other soldier, in 
any other stirring, deadly warfare, push on at his best pace 
until he touch the goal.  "A peerage or Westminster Abbey!" 
cried Nelson in his bright, boyish, heroic manner.  These are 
great incentives; not for any of these, but for the plain 
satisfaction of living, of being about their business in some 
sort or other, do the brave, serviceable men of every nation 
tread down the nettle danger, and pass flyingly over all the 
stumbling-blocks of prudence.  Think of the heroism of 
Johnson, think of that superb indifference to mortal 
limitation that set him upon his dictionary, and carried him 
through triumphantly until the end!  Who, if he were wisely 
considerate of things at large, would ever embark upon any 
work much more considerable than a halfpenny post card?  Who 
would project a serial novel, after Thackeray and Dickens had 
each fallen in mid-course?  Who would find heart enough to 
begin to live, if he dallied with the consideration of death?

And, after all, what sorry and pitiful quibbling all this 
is!  To forego all the issues of living in a parlour with a 
regulated temperature - as if that were not to die a hundred 
times over, and for ten years at a stretch!  As if it were not 
to die in one's own lifetime, and without even the sad 
immunities of death!  As if it were not to die, and yet be the 
patient spectators of our own pitiable change!  The Permanent 
Possibility is preserved, but the sensations carefully held at 
arm's length, as if one kept a photographic plate in a dark 
chamber.  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 out-
lives 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.  
And 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.  Death has not been suffered to take so 
much as an illusion from his heart.  In the hot-fit of life, 
a-tip-toe on the highest point of being, he passes at a bound 
on to the other side.  The noise of the mallet and chisel is 
scarcely quenched, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, when, 
trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy-starred, full-
blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual land.


IT seems as if a great deal were attainable in a world 
where there are so many marriages and decisive battles, and 
where we all, at certain hours of the day, and with great 
gusto and despatch, stow a portion of victuals finally and 
irretrievably into the bag which contains us.  And it would 
seem also, on a hasty view, that the attainment of as much as 
possible was the one goal of man's contentious life.  And yet, 
as regards the spirit, this is but a semblance.  We live in an 
ascending scale when we live happily, one thing leading to 
another in an endless series.  There is always a new horizon 
for onward-looking men, and although we dwell on a small 
planet, immersed in petty business and not enduring beyond a 
brief period of years, we are so constituted that our hopes 
are inaccessible, like stars, and the term of hoping is 
prolonged until the term of life.  To be truly happy is a 
question of how we begin and not of how we end, of what we 
want and not of what we have.  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.  Life is only a very dull and ill-
directed theatre unless we have some interests in the piece; 
and to those who have neither art nor science, the world is a 
mere arrangement of colours, or a rough footway where they may 
very well break their shins.  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.  Suppose he could take one meal 
so compact and comprehensive that he should never hunger any 
more; suppose him, at a glance, to take in all the features of 
the world and allay the desire for knowledge; suppose him to 
do the like in any province of experience - would not that man 
be in a poor way for amusement ever after?

One who goes touring on foot with a single volume in his 
knapsack reads with circumspection, pausing often to reflect, 
and often laying the book down to contemplate the landscape or 
the prints in the inn parlour; for he fears to come to an end 
of his entertainment, and be left companionless on the last 
stages of his journey.  A young fellow recently finished the 
works of Thomas Carlyle, winding up, if we remember aright, 
with the ten note-books upon Frederick the Great.  "What!" 
cried the young fellow, in consternation, "is there no more 
Carlyle?  Am I left to the daily papers?"  A more celebrated 
instance is that of Alexander, who wept bitterly because he 
had no more worlds to subdue.  And when Gibbon had finished 
the DECLINE AND FALL, he had only a few moments of joy; and it 
was with a "sober melancholy" that he parted from his labours.

Happily we all shoot at the moon with ineffectual arrows; 
our hopes are set on inaccessible El Dorado; we come to an end 
of nothing here below.  Interests are only plucked up to sow 
themselves again, like mustard.  You would think, when the 
child was born, there would be an end to trouble; and yet it 
is only the beginning of fresh anxieties; and when you have 
seen it through its teething and its education, and at last 
its marriage, alas! it is only to have new fears, new 
quivering sensibilities, with every day; and the health of 
your children's children grows as touching a concern as that 
of your own.  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.

"Of making books there is no end," complained the 
Preacher; and did not perceive how highly he was praising 
letters as an occupation.  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 further 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 new to startle 
and delight us.

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 blessednes; for to travel hopefully is a better 
thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.


"Whether it be wise in men to do such actions or no, I am 
sure it is so in States to honour them." - SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE.

THERE is one story of the wars of Rome which I have 
always very much envied for England.  Germanicus was going 
down at the head of the legions into a dangerous river - on 
the opposite bank the woods were full of Germans - when there 
flew out seven great eagles which seemed to marshal the Romans 
on their way; they did not pause or waver, but disappeared 
into the forest where the enemy lay concealed.  "Forward!" 
cried Germanicus, with a fine rhetorical inspiration, 
"Forward! and follow the Roman birds."  It would be a very 
heavy spirit that did not give a leap at such a signal, and a 
very timorous one that continued to have any doubt of success.  
To appropriate the eagles as fellow-countrymen was to make 
imaginary allies of the forces of nature; the Roman Empire and 
its military fortunes, and along with these the prospects of 
those individual Roman legionaries now fording a river in 
Germany, looked altogether greater and more hopeful.  It is a 
kind of illusion easy to produce.  A particular shape of 
cloud, the appearance of a particular star, the holiday of 
some particular saint, anything in short to remind the 
combatants of patriotic legends or old successes, may be 
enough to change the issue of a pitched battle; for it gives 
to the one party a feeling that Right and the larger interests 
are with them.

If an Englishman wishes to have such a feeling, it must 
be about the sea.  The lion is nothing to us; he has not been 
taken to the hearts of the people, and naturalised as an 
English emblem.  We know right well that a lion would fall 
foul of us as grimly as he would of a Frenchman or a Moldavian 
Jew, and we do not carry him before us in the smoke of battle.  
But the sea is our approach and bulwark; it has been the scene 
of our greatest triumphs and dangers; and we are accustomed in 
lyrical strains to claim it as our own.  The prostrating 
experiences of foreigners between Calais and Dover have always 
an agreeable side to English prepossessions.  A man from 
Bedfordshire, who does not know one end of the ship from the 
other until she begins to move, swaggers among such persons 
with a sense of hereditary nautical experience.  To suppose 
yourself endowed with natural parts for the sea because you 
are the countryman of Blake and mighty Nelson, is perhaps just 
as unwarrantable as to imagine Scotch extraction a sufficient 
guarantee that you will look well in a kilt.  But the feeling 
is there, and seated beyond the reach of argument.  We should 
consider ourselves unworthy of our descent if we did not share 
the arrogance of our progenitors, and please ourselves with 
the pretension that the sea is English.  Even where it is 
looked upon by the guns and battlements of another nation we 
regard it as a kind of English cemetery, where the bones of 
our seafaring fathers take their rest until the last trumpet; 
for I suppose no other nation has lost as many ships, or sent 
as many brave fellows to the bottom.

There is nowhere such a background for heroism as the 
noble, terrifying, and picturesque conditions of some of our 
sea fights.  Hawke's battle in the tempest, and Aboukir at the 
moment when the French Admiral blew up, reach the limit of 
what is imposing to the imagination.  And our naval annals owe 
some of their interest to the fantastic and beautiful 
appearance of old warships and the romance that invests the 
sea and everything sea-going in the eyes of English lads on a 
half-holiday at the coast.  Nay, and what we know of the 
misery between decks enhances the bravery of what was done by 
giving it something for contrast.  We like to know that these 
bold and honest fellows contrived to live, and to keep bold 
and honest, among absurd and vile surroundings.  No reader can 
forget the description of the THUNDER in RODERICK RANDOM: the 
disorderly tyranny; the cruelty and dirt of officers and men; 
deck after deck, each with some new object of offence; the 
hospital, where the hammocks were huddled together with but 
fourteen inches space for each; the cockpit, far under water, 
where, "in an intolerable stench," the spectacled steward kept 
the accounts of the different messes; and the canvas 
enclosure, six feet square, in which Morgan made flip and 
salmagundi, smoked his pipe, sang his Welsh songs, and swore 
his queer Welsh imprecations.  There are portions of this 
business on board the THUNDER over which the reader passes 
lightly and hurriedly, like a traveller in a malarious 
country.  It is easy enough to understand the opinion of Dr. 
Johnson: "Why, sir," he said, "no man will be a sailor who has 
contrivance enough to get himself into a jail."  You would 
fancy any one's spirit would die out under such an 
accumulation of darkness, noisomeness, and injustice, above 
all when he had not come there of his own free will, but under 
the cutlasses and bludgeons of the press-gang.  But perhaps a 
watch on deck in the sharp sea air put a man on his mettle 
again; a battle must have been a capital relief; and prize-
money, bloodily earned and grossly squandered, opened the 
doors of the prison for a twinkling.  Somehow or other, at 
least, this worst of possible lives could not overlie the 
spirit and gaiety of our sailors; they did their duty as 
though they had some interest in the fortune of that country 
which so cruelly oppressed them, they served their guns 
merrily when it came to fighting, and they had the readiest 
ear for a bold, honourable sentiment, of any class of men the 
world ever produced.

Most men of high destinies have high-sounding names.  Pym 
and Habakkuk may do pretty well, but they must not think to 
cope with the Cromwells and Isaiahs.  And you could not find a 
better case in point than that of the English Admirals.  Drake 
and Rooke and Hawke are picked names for men of execution.  
Frobisher, Rodney, Boscawen, Foul-Weather, Jack Byron, are all 
good to catch the eye in a page of a naval history.  
Cloudesley Shovel is a mouthful of quaint and sounding 
syllables.  Benbow has a bulldog quality that suits the man's 
character, and it takes us back to those English archers who 
were his true comrades for plainness, tenacity, and pluck.  
Raleigh is spirited and martial, and signifies an act of bold 
conduct in the field.  It is impossible to judge of Blake or 
Nelson, no names current among men being worthy of such 
heroes.  But still it is odd enough, and very appropriate in 
this connection, that the latter was greatly taken with his 
Sicilian title.  "The signification, perhaps, pleased him," 
says Southey; "Duke of Thunder was what in Dahomey would have 
been called a STRONG NAME; it was to a sailor's taste, and 
certainly to no man could it be more applicable."  Admiral in 
itself is one of the most satisfactory of distinctions; it has 
a noble sound and a very proud history; and Columbus thought 
so highly of it, that he enjoined his heirs to sign themselves 
by that title as long as the house should last.

But it is the spirit of the men, and not their names, 
that I wish to speak about in this paper.  That spirit is 
truly English; they, and not Tennyson's cotton-spinners or Mr. 
D'Arcy Thompson's Abstract Bagman, are the true and typical 
Englishmen.  There may be more HEAD of bagmen in the country, 
but human beings are reckoned by number only in political 
constitutions.  And the Admirals are typical in the full force 
of the word.  They are splendid examples of virtue, indeed, 
but of a virtue in which most Englishmen can claim a moderate 
share; and what we admire in their lives is a sort of 
apotheosis of ourselves.  Almost everybody in our land, except 
humanitarians and a few persons whose youth has been depressed 
by exceptionally aesthetic surroundings, can understand and 
sympathise with an Admiral or a prize-fighter.  I do not wish 
to bracket Benbow and Tom Cribb; but, depend upon it, they are 
practically bracketed for admiration in the minds of many 
frequenters of ale-houses.  If you told them about Germanicus 
and the eagles, or Regulus going back to Carthage, they would 
very likely fall asleep; but tell them about Harry Pearce and 
Jem Belcher, or about Nelson and the Nile, and they put down 
their pipes to listen.  I have by me a copy of BOXIANA, on the 
fly-leaves of which a youthful member of the fancy kept a 
chronicle of remarkable events and an obituary of great men.  
Here we find piously chronicled the demise of jockeys, 
watermen, and pugilists - Johnny Moore, of the Liverpool Prize 
Ring; Tom Spring, aged fifty-six; "Pierce Egan, senior, writer 
OF BOXIANA and other sporting works" - and among all these, 
the Duke of Wellington!  If Benbow had lived in the time of 
this annalist, do you suppose his name would not have been 
added to the glorious roll?  In short, we do not all feel 
warmly towards Wesley or Laud, we cannot all take pleasure in 
PARADISE LOST; but there are certain common sentiments and 
touches of nature by which the whole nation is made to feel 
kinship.  A little while ago everybody, from Hazlitt and John 
Wilson down to the imbecile creature who scribbled his 
register on the fly-leaves of BOXIANA, felt a more or less 
shamefaced satisfaction in the exploits of prize-fighters.  
And the exploits of the Admirals are popular to the same 
degree, and tell in all ranks of society.  Their sayings and 
doings stir English blood like the sound of a trumpet; and if 
the Indian Empire, the trade of London, and all the outward 
and visible ensigns of our greatness should pass away, we 
should still leave behind us a durable monument of what we 
were in these sayings and doings of the English Admirals.

Duncan, lying off the Texel with his own flagship, the 
VENERABLE, and only one other vessel, heard that the whole 
Dutch fleet was putting to sea.  He told Captain Hotham to 
anchor alongside of him in the narrowest part of the channel, 
and fight his vessel till she sank.  "I have taken the depth 
of the water," added he, "and when the VENERABLE goes down, my 
flag will still fly."  And you observe this is no naked Viking 
in a prehistoric period; but a Scotch member of Parliament, 
with a smattering of the classics, a telescope, a cocked hat 
of great size, and flannel underclothing.  In the same spirit, 
Nelson went into Aboukir with six colours flying; so that even 
if five were shot away, it should not be imagined he had 
struck.  He too must needs wear his four stars outside his 
Admiral's frock, to be a butt for sharp-shooters.  "In honour 
I gained them," he said to objectors, adding with sublime 
illogicality, "in honour I will die with them."  Captain 
Douglas of the ROYAL OAK, when the Dutch fired his vessel in 
the Thames, sent his men ashore, but was burned along with her 
himself rather than desert his post without orders.  Just 
then, perhaps the Merry Monarch was chasing a moth round the 
supper-table with the ladies of his court.  When Raleigh 
sailed into Cadiz, and all the forts and ships opened fire on 
him at once, he scorned to shoot a gun, and made answer with a 
flourish of insulting trumpets.  I like this bravado better 
than the wisest dispositions to insure victory; it comes from 
the heart and goes to it.  God has made nobler heroes, but he 
never made a finer gentleman than Walter Raleigh.  And as our 
Admirals were full of heroic superstitions, and had a 
strutting and vainglorious style of fight, so they discovered 
a startling eagerness for battle, and courted war like a 
mistress.  When the news came to Essex before Cadiz that the 
attack had been decided, he threw his hat into the sea.  It is 
in this way that a schoolboy hears of a half-holiday; but this 
was a bearded man of great possessions who had just been 
allowed to risk his life.  Benbow could not lie still in his 
bunk after he had lost his leg; he must be on deck in a basket 
to direct and animate the fight.  I said they loved war like a 
mistress; yet I think there are not many mistresses we should 
continue to woo under similar circumstances.  Trowbridge went 
ashore with the CULLODEN, and was able to take no part in the 
battle of the Nile.  "The merits of that ship and her gallant 
captain," wrote Nelson to the Admiralty, "are too well known 
to benefit by anything I could say.  Her misfortune was great 
IN THE FULL TIDE OF HAPPINESS."  This is a notable expression, 
and depicts the whole great-hearted, big-spoken stock of the 
English Admirals to a hair.  It was to be "in the full tide of 
happiness" for Nelson to destroy five thousand five hundred 
and twenty-five of his fellow-creatures, and have his own 
scalp torn open by a piece of langridge shot.  Hear him again 
at Copenhagen: "A shot through the mainmast knocked the 
splinters about; and he observed to one of his officers with a 
smile, `It is warm work, and this may be the last to any of us 
at any moment;' and then, stopping short at the gangway, 
added, with emotion, `BUT, MARK YOU - I WOULD NOT BE ELSEWHERE 

I must tell one more story, which has lately been made 
familiar to us all, and that in one of the noblest ballads in 
the English language.  I had written my tame prose abstract, I 
shall beg the reader to believe, when I had no notion that the 
sacred bard designed an immortality for Greenville.  Sir 
Richard Greenville was Vice-Admiral to Lord Thomas Howard, and 
lay off the Azores with the English squadron in 1591.  He was 
a noted tyrant to his crew: a dark, bullying fellow 
apparently; and it is related of him that he would chew and 
swallow wineglasses, by way of convivial levity, till the 
blood ran out of his mouth.  When the Spanish fleet of fifty 
sail came within sight of the English, his ship, the REVENGE, 
was the last to weigh anchor, and was so far circumvented by 
the Spaniards, that there were but two courses open - either 
to turn her back upon the enemy or sail through one of his 
squadrons.  The first alternative Greenville dismissed as 
dishonourable to himself, his country, and her Majesty's ship.  
Accordingly, he chose the latter, and steered into the Spanish 
armament.  Several vessels he forced to luff and fall under 
his lee; until, about three o'clock of the afternoon, a great 
ship of three decks of ordnance took the wind out of his 
sails, and immediately boarded.  Thence-forward, and all night 
long, the REVENGE, held her own single-handed against the 
Spaniards.  As one ship was beaten off, another took its 
place.  She endured, according to Raleigh's computation, 
"eight hundred shot of great artillery, besides many assaults 
and entries."  By morning the powder was spent, the pikes all 
broken, not a stick was standing, "nothing left overhead 
either for flight or defence;" six feet of water in the hold; 
almost all the men hurt; and Greenville himself in a dying 
condition.  To bring them to this pass, a fleet of fifty sail 
had been mauling them for fifteen hours, the ADMIRAL OF THE 
HULKS and the ASCENSION of Seville had both gone down 
alongside, and two other vessels had taken refuge on shore in 
a sinking state.  In Hawke's words, they had "taken a great 
deal of drubbing."  The captain and crew thought they had done 
about enough; but Greenville was not of this opinion; he gave 
orders to the master gunner, whom he knew to be a fellow after 
his own stamp, to scuttle the REVENGE where she lay.  The 
others, who were not mortally wounded like the Admiral, 
interfered with some decision, locked the master gunner in his 
cabin, after having deprived him of his sword, for he 
manifested an intention to kill himself if he were not to sink 
the ship; and sent to the Spaniards to demand terms.  These 
were granted.  The second or third day after, Greenville died 
of his wounds aboard the Spanish flagship, leaving his 
contempt upon the "traitors and dogs" who had not chosen to do 
as he did, and engage fifty vessels, well found and fully 
manned, with six inferior craft ravaged by sickness and short 
of stores.  He at least, he said, had done his duty as he was 
bound to do, and looked for everlasting fame.

Some one said to me the other day that they considered 
this story to be of a pestilent example.  I am not inclined to 
imagine we shall ever be put into any practical difficulty 
from a superfluity of Greenvilles.  And besides, I demur to 
the opinion.  The worth of such actions is not a thing to be 
decided in a quaver of sensibility or a flush of righteous 
commonsense.  The man who wished to make the ballads of his 
country, coveted a small matter compared to what Richard 
Greenville accomplished.  I wonder how many people have been 
inspired by this mad story, and how many battles have been 
actually won for England in the spirit thus engendered.  It is 
only with a measure of habitual foolhardiness that you can be 
sure, in the common run of men, of courage on a reasonable 
occasion.  An army or a fleet, if it is not led by quixotic 
fancies, will not be led far by terror of the Provost Marshal.  
Even German warfare, in addition to maps and telegraphs, is 
not above employing the WACHT AM RHEIN.  Nor is it only in the 
profession of arms that such stories may do good to a man.  In 
this desperate and gleeful fighting, whether it is Greenville 
or Benbow, Hawke or Nelson, who flies his colours in the ship, 
we see men brought to the test and giving proof of what we 
call heroic feeling.  Prosperous humanitarians tell me, in my 
club smoking-room, that they are a prey to prodigious heroic 
feelings, and that it costs them more nobility of soul to do 
nothing in particular, than would carry on all the wars, by 
sea or land, of bellicose humanity.  It may very well be so, 
and yet not touch the point in question.  For what I desire is 
to see some of this nobility brought face to face with me in 
an inspiriting achievement.  A man may talk smoothly over a 
cigar in my club smoking-room from now to the Day of Judgment, 
without adding anything to mankind's treasury of illustrious 
and encouraging examples.  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 
some 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 
wineglasses 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 eloquent 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.

There is another question which seems bound up in this; 
and that is Temple's problem: whether it was wise of Douglas 
to burn with the ROYAL OAK? and by implication, what it was 
that made him do so?  Many will tell you it was the desire of 

"To what do Caesar and Alexander owe the infinite 
grandeur of their renown, but to fortune?  How many men has 
she extinguished in the beginning of their progress, of whom 
we have no knowledge; who brought as much courage to the work 
as they, if their adverse hap had not cut them off in the 
first sally of their arms?  Amongst so many and so great 
dangers, I do not remember to have anywhere read that Caesar 
was ever wounded; a thousand have fallen in less dangers than 
the least of these he went through.  A great many brave 
actions must be expected to be performed without witness, for 
one that comes to some notice.  A man is not always at the top 
of a breach, or at the head of an army in the sight of his 
general, as upon a platform.  He is often surprised between 
the hedge and the ditch; he must run the hazard of his life 
against a henroost; he must dislodge four rascally musketeers 
out of a barn; he must prick out single from his party, as 
necessity arises, and meet adventures alone."

Thus far Montaigne, in a characteristic essay on GLORY.  
Where death is certain, as in the cases of Douglas or 
Greenville, it seems all one from a personal point of view.  
The man who lost his life against a henroost, is in the same 
pickle with him who lost his life against a fortified place of 
the first order.  Whether he has missed a peerage or only the 
corporal's stripes, it is all one if he has missed them and is 
quietly in the grave.  It was by a hazard that we learned the 
conduct of the four marines of the WAGER.  There was no room 
for these brave fellows in the boat, and they were left behind 
upon the island to a certain death.  They were soldiers, they 
said, and knew well enough it was their business to die; and 
as their comrades pulled away, they stood upon the beach, gave 
three cheers, and cried "God bless the king!"  Now, one or two 
of those who were in the boat escaped, against all likelihood, 
to tell the story.  That was a great thing for us; but surely 
it cannot, by any possible twisting of human speech, be 
construed into anything great for the marines.  You may 
suppose, if you like, that they died hoping their behaviour 
would not be forgotten; or you may suppose they thought 
nothing on the subject, which is much more likely.  What can 
be the signification of the word "fame" to a private of 
marines, who cannot read and knows nothing of past history 
beyond the reminiscences of his grandmother?  But whichever 
supposition you make, the fact is unchanged.  They died while 
the question still hung in the balance; and I suppose their 
bones were already white, before the winds and the waves and 
the humour of Indian chiefs and Spanish governors had decided 
whether they were to be unknown and useless martyrs or 
honoured heroes.  Indeed, I believe this is the lesson: if it 
is for fame that men do brave actions, they are only silly 
fellows after 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.  But there is another theory of the personal 
motive in these fine sayings and doings, which I believe to be 
true and wholesome.  People usually do things, and suffer 
martyrdoms, 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.  If the Admirals courted war like 
a mistress; if, as the drum beat to quarters, the sailors came 
gaily out of the forecastle, - it is because a fight is a 
period of multiplied and intense experiences, and, by Nelson's 
computation, worth "thousands" to any one who has a heart 
under his jacket.  If the marines of the WAGER gave three 
cheers and cried "God bless the king," it was because they 
liked to do things nobly for their own satisfaction.  They 
were giving their lives, there was no help for that; and they 
made it a point of self-respect to give them handsomely.  And 
there were never four happier marines in God's world than 
these four at that moment.  If it was worth thousands to be at 
the Baltic, I wish a Benthamite arithmetician would calculate 
how much it was worth to be one of these four marines; or how 
much their story is worth to each of us who read it.  And mark 
you, undemonstrative men would have spoiled the situation.  
The finest action is the better for a piece of purple.  If the 
soldiers of the BIRKENHEAD had not gone down in line, or these 
marines of the WAGER had walked away simply into the island, 
like plenty of other brave fellows in the like circumstances, 
my Benthamite arithmetician would assign a far lower value to 
the two stories.  We have to desire a grand air in our heroes; 
and such a knowledge of the human stage as shall make them put 
the dots on their own i's, and leave us in no suspense as to 
when they mean to be heroic.  And hence, we should 
congratulate ourselves upon the fact that our Admirals were 
not only great-hearted but big-spoken.

The heroes themselves say, as often as not, that fame is 
their object; but I do not think that is much to the purpose.  
People generally say what they have been taught to say; that 
was the catchword they were given in youth to express the aims 
of their way of life; and men who are gaining great battles 
are not likely to take much trouble in reviewing their 
sentiments and the words in which they were told to express 
them.  Almost every person, if you will believe himself, holds 
a quite different theory of life from the one on which he is 
patently acting.  And 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.  I suspect that is why; and I 
suspect it is at least ten per cent of why Lord Beaconsfield 
and Mr. Gladstone have debated so much in the House of 
Commons, and why Burnaby rode to Khiva the other day, and why 
the Admirals courted war like a mistress.


THROUGH the initiative of a prominent citizen, Edinburgh 
has been in possession, for some autumn weeks, of a gallery of 
paintings of singular merit and interest.  They were exposed 
in the apartments of the Scotch Academy; and filled those who 
are accustomed to visit the annual spring exhibition, with 
astonishment and a sense of incongruity.  Instead of the too 
common purple sunsets, and pea-green fields, and distances 
executed in putty and hog's lard, he beheld, looking down upon 
him from the walls of room after room, a whole army of wise, 
grave, humorous, capable, or beautiful countenances, painted 
simply and strongly by a man of genuine instinct.  It was a 
complete act of the Human Drawing-Room Comedy.  Lords and 
ladies, soldiers and doctors, hanging judges, and heretical 
divines, a whole generation of good society was resuscitated; 
and the Scotchman of to-day walked about among the Scotchmen 
of two generations ago.  The moment was well chosen, neither 
too late nor too early.  The people who sat for these pictures 
are not yet ancestors, they are still relations.  They are not 
yet altogether a part of the dusty past, but occupy a middle 
distance within cry of our affections.  The little child who 
looks wonderingly on his grandfather's watch in the picture, 
is now the veteran Sheriff EMERITIS of Perth.  And I hear a 
story of a lady who returned the other day to Edinburgh, after 
an absence of sixty years: "I could see none of my old 
friends," she said, "until I went into the Raeburn Gallery, 
and found them all there."

It would be difficult to say whether the collection was 
more interesting on the score of unity or diversity.  Where 
the portraits were all of the same period, almost all of the 
same race, and all from the same brush, there could not fail 
to be many points of similarity.  And yet the similarity of 
the handling seems to throw into more vigorous relief those 
personal distinctions which Raeburn was so quick to seize.  He 
was a born painter of portraits.  He looked people shrewdly 
between the eyes, surprised their manners in their face, and 
had possessed himself of what was essential in their character 
before they had been many minutes in his studio.  What he was 
so swift to perceive, he conveyed to the canvas almost in the 
moment of conception.  He had never any difficulty, he said, 
about either hands or faces.  About draperies or light or 
composition, he might see room for hesitation or afterthought.  
But a face or a hand was something plain and legible.  There 
were no two ways about it, any more than about the person's 
name.  And so each of his portraits are not only (in Doctor 
Johnson's phrase, aptly quoted on the catalogue) "a piece of 
history," but a piece of biography into the bargain.  It is 
devoutly to be wished that all biography were equally amusing, 
and carried its own credentials equally upon its face.  These 
portraits are racier than many anecdotes, and more complete 
than many a volume of sententious memoirs.  You can see 
whether you get a stronger and clearer idea of Robertson the 
historian from Raeburn's palette or Dugald Stewart's woolly 
and evasive periods.  And then the portraits are both signed 
and countersigned.  For you have, first, the authority of the 
artist, whom you recognise as no mean critic of the looks and 
manners of men; and next you have the tacit acquiescence of 
the subject, who sits looking out upon you with inimitable 
innocence, and apparently under the impression that he is in a 
room by himself.  For Raeburn could plunge at once through all 
the constraint and embarrassment of the sitter, and present 
the face, clear, open, and intelligent as at the most 
disengaged moments.  This is best seen in portraits where the 
sitter is represented in some appropriate action: Neil Gow 
with his fiddle, Doctor Spens shooting an arrow, or Lord 
Bannatyne hearing a cause.  Above all, from this point of 
view, the portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Lyon is notable.  A 
strange enough young man, pink, fat about the lower part of 
the face, with a lean forehead, a narrow nose and a fine 
nostril, sits with a drawing-board upon his knees.  He has 
just paused to render himself account of some difficulty, to 
disentangle some complication of line or compare neighbouring 
values.  And there, without any perceptible wrinkling, you 
have rendered for you exactly the fixed look in the eyes, and 
the unconscious compression of the mouth, that befit and 
signify an effort of the kind.  The whole pose, the whole 
expression, is absolutely direct and simple.  You are ready to 
take your oath to it that Colonel Lyon had no idea he was 
sitting for his picture, and thought of nothing in the world 
besides his own occupation of the moment.

Although the collection did not embrace, I understand, 
nearly the whole of Raeburn's works, it was too large not to 
contain some that were indifferent, whether as works of art or 
as portraits.  Certainly the standard was remarkably high, and 
was wonderfully maintained, but there were one or two pictures 
that might have been almost as well away - one or two that 
seemed wanting in salt, and some that you can only hope were 
not successful likenesses.  Neither of the portraits of Sir 
Walter Scott, for instance, were very agreeable to look upon.  
You do not care to think that Scott looked quite so rustic and 
puffy.  And where is that peaked forehead which, according to 
all written accounts and many portraits, was the 
distinguishing characteristic of his face?  Again, in spite of 
his own satisfaction and in spite of Dr. John Brown, I cannot 
consider that Raeburn was very happy in hands.  Without doubt, 
he could paint one if he had taken the trouble to study it; 
but it was by no means always that he gave himself the 
trouble.  Looking round one of these rooms hung about with his 
portraits, you were struck with the array of expressive faces, 
as compared with what you may have seen in looking round a 
room full of living people.  But it was not so with the hands.  
The portraits differed from each other in face perhaps ten 
times as much as they differed by the hand; whereas with 
living people the two go pretty much together; and where one 
is remarkable, the other will almost certainly not be 

One interesting portrait was that of Duncan of 
Camperdown.  He stands in uniform beside a table, his feet 
slightly straddled with the balance of an old sailor, his hand 
poised upon a chart by the finger tips.  The mouth is pursed, 
the nostril spread and drawn up, the eyebrows very highly 
arched.  The cheeks lie along the jaw in folds of iron, and 
have the redness that comes from much exposure to salt sea 
winds.  From the whole figure, attitude and countenance, there 
breathes something precise and decisive, something alert, 
wiry, and strong.  You can understand, from the look of him, 
that sense, not so much of humour, as of what is grimmest and 
driest in pleasantry, which inspired his address before the 
fight at Camperdown.  He had just overtaken the Dutch fleet 
under Admiral de Winter.  "Gentlemen," says he, "you see a 
severe winter approaching; I have only to advise you to keep 
up a good fire."  Somewhat of this same spirit of adamantine 
drollery must have supported him in the days of the mutiny at 
the Nore, when he lay off the Texel with his own flagship, the 
VENERABLE, and only one other vessel, and kept up active 
signals, as though he had a powerful fleet in the offing, to 
intimidate the Dutch.

Another portrait which irresistibly attracted the eye, 
was the half-length of Robert M'Queen, of Braxfield, Lord 
Justice-Clerk.  If I know gusto in painting when I see it, 
this canvas was painted with rare enjoyment.  The tart, rosy, 
humorous look of the man, his nose like a cudgel, his face 
resting squarely on the jowl, has been caught and perpetuated 
with something that looks like brotherly love.  A peculiarly 
subtle expression haunts the lower part, sensual and 
incredulous, like that of a man tasting good Bordeaux with 
half a fancy it has been somewhat too long uncorked.  From 
under the pendulous eyelids of old age the eyes look out with 
a half-youthful, half-frosty twinkle.  Hands, with no pretence 
to distinction, are folded on the judge's stomach.  So 
sympathetically is the character conceived by the portrait 
painter, that it is hardly possible to avoid some movement of 
sympathy on the part of the spectator.  And 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, and, among the rest, for Lord Braxfield, 
than to give way to perfect raptures of moral indignation 
against his abstract vices.  He was the last judge on the 
Scotch bench to employ the pure Scotch idiom.  His opinions, 
thus given in Doric, and conceived in a lively, rugged, 
conversational style, were full of point and authority.  Out 
of the bar, or off the bench, he was a convivial man, a lover 
of wine, and one who "shone peculiarly" at tavern meetings.  
He has left behind him an unrivalled reputation for rough and 
cruel speech; and to this day his name smacks of the gallows.  
It was he who presided at the trials of Muir and Skirving in 
1793 and 1794; and his appearance on these occasions was 
scarcely cut to the pattern of to-day.  His summing up on Muir 
began thus - the reader must supply for himself "the growling, 
blacksmith's voice" and the broad Scotch accent: "Now this is 
the question for consideration - Is the panel guilty of 
sedition, or is he not?  Now, before this can be answered, two 
things must be attended to that require no proof: FIRST, that 
the British constitution is the best that ever was since the 
creation of the world, and it is not possible to make it 
better."  It's a pretty fair start, is it not, for a political 
trial?  A little later, he has occasion to refer to the 
relations of Muir with "those wretches," the French.  "I never 
liked the French all my days," said his lordship, "but now I 
hate them."  And yet a little further on: "A government in any 
country should be like a corporation; and in this country it 
is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to 
be represented.  As for the rabble who have nothing but 
personal property, what hold has the nation of them?  They may 
pack up their property on their backs, and leave the country 
in the twinkling of an eye."  After having made profession of 
sentiments so cynically anti-popular as these, when the trials 
were at an end, which was generally about midnight, Braxfield 
would walk home to his house in George Square with no better 
escort than an easy conscience.  I think I see him getting his 
cloak about his shoulders, and, with perhaps a lantern in one 
hand, steering his way along the streets in the mirk January 
night.  It might have been that very day that Skirving had 
defied him in these words: "It is altogether unavailing for 
your lordship to menace me; for I have long learned to fear 
not the face of man;" and I can fancy, as Braxfield reflected 
on the number of what he called GRUMBLETONIANS in Edinburgh, 
and of how many of them must bear special malice against so 
upright and inflexible a judge, nay, and might at that very 
moment be lurking in the mouth of a dark close with hostile 
intent - I can fancy that he indulged in a sour smile, as he 
reflected that he also was not especially afraid of men's 
faces or men's fists, and had hitherto found no occasion to 
embody this insensibility in heroic words.  For if he was an 
inhumane old gentleman (and I am afraid it is a fact that he 
was inhumane), he was also perfectly intrepid.  You may look 
into the queer face of that portrait for as long as you will, 
but you will not see any hole or corner for timidity to enter 

Indeed, there would be no end to this paper if I were 
even to name half of the portraits that were remarkable for 
their execution, or interesting by association.  There was one 
picture of Mr. Wardrop, of Torbane Hill, which you might palm 
off upon most laymen as a Rembrandt; and close by, you saw the 
white head of John Clerk, of Eldin, that country gentleman 
who, playing with pieces of cork on his own dining-table, 
invented modern naval warfare.  There was that portrait of 
Neil Gow, to sit for which the old fiddler walked daily 
through the streets of Edinburgh arm in arm with the Duke of 
Athole.  There was good Harry Erskine, with his satirical nose 
and upper lip, and his mouth just open for a witticism to pop 
out; Hutton the geologist, in quakerish raiment, and looking 
altogether trim and narrow, and as if he cared more about 
fossils than young ladies; full-blown John Robieson, in 
hyperbolical red dressing-gown, and, every inch of him, a fine 
old man of the world; Constable the publisher, upright beside 
a table, and bearing a corporation with commercial dignity; 
Lord Bannatyne hearing a cause, if ever anybody heard a cause 
since the world began; Lord Newton just awakened from 
clandestine slumber on the bench; and the second President 
Dundas, with every feature so fat that he reminds you, in his 
wig, of some droll old court officer in an illustrated nursery 
story-book, and yet all these fat features instinct with 
meaning, the fat lips curved and compressed, the nose 
combining somehow the dignity of a beak with the good nature 
of a bottle, and the very double chin with an air of 
intelligence and insight.  And all these portraits are so pat 
and telling, and look at you so spiritedly from the walls, 
that, compared with the sort of living people one sees about 
the streets, they are as bright new sovereigns to fishy and 
obliterated sixpences.  Some disparaging thoughts upon our own 
generation could hardly fail to present themselves; but it is 
perhaps only the SACER VATES who is wanting; and we also, 
painted by such a man as Carolus Duran, may look in holiday 
immortality upon our children and grandchildren.

Raeburn's young women, to be frank, are by no means of 
the same order of merit.  No one, of course, could be 
insensible to the presence of Miss Janet Suttie or Mrs. 
Campbell of Possil.  When things are as pretty as that, 
criticism is out of season.  But, on the whole, it is only 
with women of a certain age that he can be said to have 
succeeded, in at all the same sense as we say he succeeded 
with men.  The younger women do not seem to be made of good 
flesh and blood.  They are not painted in rich and unctuous 
touches.  They are dry and diaphanous.  And although young 
ladies in Great Britain are all that can be desired of them, I 
would fain hope they are not quite so much of that as Raeburn 
would have us believe.  In all these pretty faces, you miss 
character, you miss fire, you miss that spice of the devil 
which is worth all the prettiness in the world; and what is 
worst of all, you miss sex.  His young ladies are not womanly 
to nearly the same degree as his men are masculine; they are 
so in a negative sense; in short, they are the typical young 
ladies of the male novelist.

To say truth, either Raeburn was timid with young and 
pretty sitters; or he had stupefied himself with 
sentimentalities; or else (and here is about the truth of it) 
Raeburn and the rest of us labour under an obstinate blindness 
in one direction, and know very little more about women after 
all these centuries than Adam when he first saw Eve.  This is 
all the more likely, because we are by no means so 
unintelligent in the matter of old women.  There are some 
capital old women, it seems to me, in books written by men.  
And Raeburn has some, such as Mrs. Colin Campbell, of Park, or 
the anonymous "Old lady with a large cap," which are done in 
the same frank, perspicacious spirit as the very best of his 
men.  He could look into their eyes without trouble; and he 
was not withheld, by any bashful sentimentalism, from 
recognising what he saw there and unsparingly putting it down 
upon the canvas.  But where people cannot meet without some 
confusion and a good deal of involuntary humbug, and are 
occupied, for as long as they are together, with a very 
different vein of thought, there cannot be much room for 
intelligent study nor much result in the shape of genuine 
comprehension.  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 at the back of his head.  Of course, no woman will 
believe this, and many men will be so very polite as to humour 
their incredulity.


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 aptitude for playing at 
soldiers.  Terror is gone out of our lives, moreover; we no 
longer see the devil in the bed-curtains nor lie awake to 
listen to the wind.  We go to school no more; and if we have 
only exchanged one drudgery for another (which is by no means 
sure), we are set free for ever from the daily fear of 
chastisement.  And yet a great change has overtaken us; and 
although we do not enjoy ourselves less, at least we take our 
pleasure differently.  We need pickles nowadays to make 
Wednesday's cold mutton please our Friday's appetite; and I 
can remember the time when to call it red venison, and tell 
myself a hunter's story, would have made it more palatable 
than the best of sauces.  To the grown person, cold mutton is 
cold mutton all the world over; not all the mythology ever 
invented by man will make it better or worse to him; the broad 
fact, the clamant reality, of the mutton carries away before 
it such seductive figments.  But for the child it is still 
possible to weave an enchantment over eatables; and if he has 
but read of a dish in a story-book, it will be heavenly manna 
to him for a week.

If a grown man does not like eating and drinking and 
exercise, if he is not something positive in his tastes, it 
means he has a feeble body and should have some medicine; but 
children may be pure spirits, if they will, and take their 
enjoyment in a world of moon-shine.  Sensation does not count 
for so much in our first years as afterwards; something of the 
swaddling numbness of infancy clings about us; we see and 
touch and hear through a sort of golden mist.  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.  
Nor is the sense of touch so clean and poignant in children as 
it is in a man.  If you will turn over your old memories, I 
think the sensations of this sort you remember will be 
somewhat vague, and come to not much more than a blunt, 
general sense of heat on summer days, or a blunt, general 
sense of wellbeing in bed.  And here, of course, you will 
understand pleasurable sensations; for overmastering pain - 
the most deadly and tragical element in life, and the true 
commander of man's soul and body - 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.  As for taste, 
when we bear in mind the excesses of unmitigated sugar which 
delight a youthful palate, "it is surely no very cynical 
asperity" to think taste a character of the maturer growth.  
Smell and hearing are perhaps more developed; I remember many 
scents, many voices, and a great deal of spring singing in the 
woods.  But hearing is capable of vast improvement as a means 
of pleasure; and there is all the world between gaping 
wonderment at the jargon of birds, and the emotion with which 
a man listens to articulate music.

At the same time, and step by step with this increase in 
the definition and intensity of what we feel which accompanies 
our growing age, another change takes place in the sphere of 
intellect, by which all things are transformed and seen 
through theories and associations as through coloured windows.  
We make to ourselves day by day, out of history, and gossip, 
and economical speculations, and God knows what, a medium in 
which we walk and through which we look abroad.  We study shop 
windows with other eyes than in our childhood, never to 
wonder, not always to admire, but to make and modify our 
little incongruous theories about life.  It is no longer the 
uniform of a soldier that arrests our attention; but perhaps 
the flowing carriage of a woman, or perhaps a countenance that 
has been vividly stamped with passion and carries an 
adventurous story written in its lines.  The pleasure of 
surprise is passed away; sugar-loaves and water-carts seem 
mighty tame to encounter; and we walk the streets to make 
romances and to sociologise.  Nor must we deny that a good 
many of us walk them solely for the purposes of transit or in 
the interest of a livelier digestion.  These, indeed, may look 
back with mingled thoughts upon their childhood, but the rest 
are in a better case; they know more than when they were 
children, they understand better, their desires and sympathies 
answer more nimbly to the provocation of the senses, and their 
minds are brimming with interest as they go about the world.

According to my contention, this is a flight to which 
children cannot rise.  They are wheeled in perambulators or 
dragged about by nurses in a pleasing stupor.  A vague, faint, 
abiding, wonderment possesses them.  Here and there some 
specially remarkable circumstance, such as a water-cart or a 
guardsman, fairly penetrates into the seat of thought and 
calls them, for half a moment, out of themselves; and you may 
see them, still towed forward sideways by the inexorable nurse 
as by a sort of destiny, but still staring at the bright 
object in their wake.  It may be some minutes before another 
such moving spectacle reawakens them to the world in which 
they dwell.  For other children, they almost invariably show 
some intelligent sympathy.  "There is a fine fellow making mud 
pies," they seem to say; "that I can understand, there is some 
sense in mud pies."  But the doings of their elders, unless 
where they are speakingly picturesque or recommend themselves 
by the quality of being easily imitable, they let them go over 
their heads (as we say) without the least regard.  If it were 
not for this perpetual imitation, we should be tempted to 
fancy they despised us outright, or only considered us in the 
light of creatures brutally strong and brutally silly; among 
whom they condescended to dwell in obedience like a 
philosopher at a barbarous court.  At times, indeed, they 
display an arrogance of disregard that is truly staggering.  
Once, when I was groaning aloud with physical pain, a young 
gentleman came into the room and nonchalantly inquired if I 
had seen his bow and arrow.  He made no account of my groans, 
which he accepted, as he had to accept so much else, as a 
piece of the inexplicable conduct of his elders; and like a 
wise young gentleman, he would waste no wonder on the subject.  
Those elders, who care so little for rational enjoyment, and 
are even the enemies of rational enjoyment for others, he had 
accepted without understanding and without complaint, as the 
rest of us accept the scheme of the universe.

We grown people can tell ourselves a story, give and take 
strokes until the bucklers ring, ride far and fast, marry, 
fall, and die; all the while sitting quietly by the fire or 
lying prone in bed.  This is exactly what a child cannot do, 
or does not do, at least, when he can find anything else.  He 
works all with lay figures and stage properties.  When his 
story comes to the fighting, he must rise, get something by 
way of a sword and have a set-to with a piece of furniture, 
until he is out of breath.  When he comes to ride with the 
king's pardon, he must bestride a chair, which he will so 
hurry and belabour and on which he will so furiously demean 
himself, that the messenger will arrive, if not bloody with 
spurring, at least fiery red with haste.  If his romance 
involves an accident upon a cliff, he must clamber in person 
about the chest of drawers and fall bodily upon the carpet, 
before his imagination is satisfied.  Lead soldiers, dolls, 
all toys, in short, are in the same category and answer the 
same end.  Nothing can stagger a child's faith; he accepts the 
clumsiest substitutes and can swallow the most staring 
incongruities.  The chair he has just been besieging as a 
castle, or valiantly cutting to the ground as a dragon, is 
taken away for the accommodation of a morning visitor, and he 
is nothing abashed; he can skirmish by the hour with a 
stationary coal-scuttle; in the midst of the enchanted 
pleasance, he can see, without sensible shock, the gardener 
soberly digging potatoes for the day's dinner.  He can make 
abstraction of whatever does not fit into his fable; and he 
puts his eyes into his pocket, just as we hold our noses in an 
unsavoury lane.  And so it is, that although the ways of 
children cross with those of their elders in a hundred places 
daily, they never go in the same direction nor so much as lie 
in the same element.  So may the telegraph wires intersect the 
line of the high-road, or so might a landscape painter and a 
bagman visit the same country, and yet move in different 

People struck with these spectacles cry aloud about the 
power of imagination in the young.  Indeed there may be two 
words to that.  It is, in some ways, but a pedestrian fancy 
that the child exhibits.  It is the grown people who make the 
nursery stories; all the children do, is jealously to preserve 
the text.  One out of a dozen reasons why ROBINSON CRUSOE 
should be so popular with youth, is that it hits their level 
in this matter to a nicety; Crusoe was always at makeshifts 
and had, in so many words, to PLAY at a great variety of 
professions; and then the book is all about tools, and there 
is nothing that delights a child so much.  Hammers and saws 
belong to a province of life that positively calls for 
imitation.  The juvenile lyrical drama, surely of the most 
ancient Thespian model, wherein the trades of mankind are 
successively simulated to the running burthen "On a cold and 
frosty morning," gives a good instance of the artistic taste 
in children.  And this need for overt action and lay figures 
testifies to a defect in the child's imagination which 
prevents him from carrying out his novels in the privacy of 
his own heart.  He does not yet know enough of the world and 
men.  His experience is incomplete.  That stage-wardrobe and 
scene-room that we call the memory is so ill provided, that he 
can overtake few combinations and body out few stories, to his 
own content, without some external aid.  He is at the 
experimental stage; he is not sure how one would feel in 
certain circumstances; to make sure, he must come as near 
trying it as his means permit.  And so here is young heroism 
with a wooden sword, and mothers practice their kind vocation 
over a bit of jointed stick.  It may be laughable enough just 
now; but it is these same people and these same thoughts, that 
not long hence, when they are on the theatre of life, will 
make you weep and tremble.  For children think very much the 
same thoughts and dream the same dreams, as bearded men and 
marriageable women.  No one is more romantic.  Fame and 
honour, the love of young men and the love of mothers, the 
business man's pleasure in method, all these and others they 
anticipate and rehearse in their play hours.  Upon us, who are 
further advanced and fairly dealing with the threads of 
destiny, they only glance from time to time to glean a hint 
for their own mimetic reproduction.  Two children playing at 
soldiers are far more interesting to each other than one of 
the scarlet beings whom both are busy imitating.  This is 
perhaps the greatest oddity of all.  "Art for art" is their 
motto; and the doings of grown folk are only interesting as 
the raw material for play.  Not Theophile Gautier, not 
Flaubert, can look more callously upon life, or rate the 
reproduction more highly over the reality; and they will 
parody an execution, a deathbed, or the funeral of the young 
man of Nain, with all the cheerfulness in the world.

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.  Our day-dreams can no longer 
lie all in the air like a story in the ARABIAN NIGHTS; they 
read to us rather like the history of a period in which we 
ourselves had taken part, where we come across many 
unfortunate passages and find our own conduct smartly 
reprimanded.  And then the child, mind you, acts his parts.  
He does not merely repeat them to himself; he leaps, he runs, 
and sets the blood agog over all his body.  And so his play 
breathes him; and he no sooner assumes a passion than he gives 
it vent.  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.

In the child's world of dim sensation, play is all in 
all.  "Making believe" is the gist of his whole life, and he 
cannot so much as take a walk except in character.  I could 
not learn my alphabet without some suitable MISE-EN-SCENE, and 
had to act a business man in an office before I could sit down 
to my book.  Will you kindly question your memory, and find 
out how much you did, work or pleasure, in good faith and 
soberness, and for how much you had to cheat yourself with 
some invention?  I remember, as though it were yesterday, the 
expansion of spirit, the dignity and self-reliance, that came 
with a pair of mustachios in burnt cork, even when there was 
none to see.  Children are even content to forego what we call 
the realities, and prefer the shadow to the substance.  When 
they might be speaking intelligibly together, they chatter 
senseless gibberish by the hour, and are quite happy because 
they are making believe to speak French.  I have said already 
how even the imperious appetite of hunger suffers itself to be 
gulled and led by the nose with the fag end of an old song.  
And it goes deeper than this: when children are together even 
a meal is felt as an interruption in the business of life; and 
they must find some imaginative sanction, and tell themselves 
some sort of story, to account for, to colour, to render 
entertaining, the simple processes of eating and drinking.  
What wonderful fancies I have heard evolved out of the pattern 
upon tea-cups! - from which there followed a code of rules and 
a whole world of excitement, until tea-drinking began to take 
rank as a game.  When my cousin and I took our porridge of a 
morning, we had a device to enliven the course of the meal.  
He ate his with sugar, and explained it to be a country 
continually buried under snow.  I took mine with milk, and 
explained it to be a country suffering gradual inundation.  
You can imagine us exchanging bulletins; how here was an 
island still unsubmerged, here a valley not yet covered with 
snow; what inventions were made; how his population lived in 
cabins on perches and travelled on stilts, and how mine was 
always in boats; how the interest grew furious, as the last 
corner of safe ground was cut off on all sides and grew 
smaller every moment; and how in fine, the food was of 
altogether secondary importance, and might even have been 
nauseous, so long as we seasoned it with these dreams.  But 
perhaps the most exciting moments I ever had over a meal, were 
in the case of calves' feet jelly.  It was hardly possible not 
to believe - and you may be sure, so far from trying, I did 
all I could to favour the illusion - that some part of it was 
hollow, and that sooner or later my spoon would lay open the 
secret tabernacle of the golden rock.  There, might some 
miniature RED BEARD await his hour; there, might one find the 
treasures of the FORTY THIEVES, and bewildered Cassim beating 
about the walls.  And so I quarried on slowly, with bated 
breath, savouring the interest.  Believe me, I had little 
palate left for the jelly; and though I preferred the taste 
when I took cream with it, I used often to go without, because 
the cream dimmed the transparent fractures.

Even with games, this spirit is authoritative with right-
minded children.  It is thus that hide-and-seek has so pre-
eminent a sovereignty, for it is the wellspring of romance, 
and the actions and the excitement to which it gives rise lend 
themselves to almost any sort of fable.  And thus cricket, 
which is a mere matter of dexterity, palpably about nothing 
and for no end, often fails to satisfy infantile craving.  It 
is a game, if you like, but not a game of play.  You cannot 
tell yourself a story about cricket; and the activity it calls 
forth can be justified on no rational theory.  Even football, 
although it admirably simulates the tug and the ebb and flow 
of battle, has presented difficulties to the mind of young 
sticklers after verisimilitude; and I knew at least one little 
boy who was mightily exercised about the presence of the ball, 
and had to spirit himself up, whenever he came to play, with 
an elaborate story of enchantment, and take the missile as a 
sort of talisman bandied about in conflict between two Arabian 

To think of such a frame of mind, is to become disquieted 
about the bringing up of children.  Surely they dwell in a 
mythological epoch, and are not the contemporaries of their 
parents.  What can they think of them? what can they make of 
these bearded or petticoated giants who look down upon their 
games? who move upon a cloudy Olympus, following unknown 
designs apart from rational enjoyment? who profess the 
tenderest solicitude for children, and yet every now and again 
reach down out of their altitude and terribly vindicate the 
prerogatives of age?  Off goes the child, corporally smarting, 
but morally rebellious.  Were there ever such unthinkable 
deities as parents?  I would give a great deal to know what, 
in nine cases out of ten, is the child's unvarnished feeling.  
A sense of past cajolery; a sense of personal attraction, at 
best very feeble; above all, I should imagine, a sense of 
terror for the untried residue of mankind go to make up the 
attraction that he feels.  No wonder, poor little heart, with 
such a weltering world in front of him, if he clings to the 
hand he knows!  The dread irrationality of the whole affair, 
as it seems to children, is a thing we are all too ready to 
forget.  "O, why," I remember passionately wondering, "why can 
we not all be happy and devote ourselves to play?"  And when 
children do philosophise, I believe it is usually to very much 
the same purpose.

One thing, at least, comes very clearly out of these 
considerations; that 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.

I am reminded, as I write, that the child is very 
inquiring as to the precise truth of stories.  But indeed this 
is a very different matter, and one bound up with the subject 
of play, and the precise amount of playfulness, or 
playability, to be looked for in the world.  Many such burning 
questions must arise in the course of nursery education.  
Among the fauna of this planet, which already embraces the 
pretty soldier and the terrifying Irish beggarman, is, or is 
not, the child to expect a Bluebeard or a Cormoran?  Is he, or 
is he not, to look out for magicians, kindly and potent?  May 
he, or may he not, reasonably hope to be cast away upon a 
desert island, or turned to such diminutive proportions that 
he can live on equal terms with his lead soldiery, and go a 
cruise in his own toy schooner?  Surely all these are 
practical questions to a neophyte entering upon life with a 
view to play.  Precision upon such a point, the child can 
understand.  But if you merely ask him of his past behaviour, 
as to who threw such a stone, for instance, or struck such and 
such a match; or whether he had looked into a parcel or gone 
by a forbidden path, - why, he can see no moment in the 
inquiry, and it is ten to one, he has already half forgotten 
and half bemused himself with subsequent imaginings.

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?


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.  It is this that so few can understand; 
they will either be always lounging or always at five miles an 
hour; they do not play off the one against the other, prepare 
all day for the evening, and all evening for the next day.  
And, above all, it is here that your overwalker fails of 
comprehension.  His heart rises against those who drink their 
curacoa in liqueur glasses, when he himself can swill it in a 
brown john.  He will not believe that the flavour is more 
delicate in the smaller dose.  He will not believe that to 
walk this unconscionable distance is merely to stupefy and 
brutalise himself, and come to his inn, at night, with a sort 
of frost on his five wits, and a starless night of darkness in 
his spirit.  Not for him the mild luminous evening of the 
temperate walker!  He has nothing left of man but a physical 
need for bedtime and a double nightcap; and even his pipe, if 
he be a smoker, will be savourless and disenchanted.  It is 
the fate of such an one to take twice as much trouble as is 
needed to obtain happiness, and miss the happiness in the end; 
he is the man of the proverb, in short, who goes further and 
fares worse.

Now, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour should be 
gone upon alone.  If you go in a company, or even in pairs, it 
is no longer a walking tour in anything but name; it is 
something else and more in the nature of a picnic.  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.  "I cannot see the wit," says Hazlitt, "of 
walking and talking at the same time.  When I am in the 
country I wish to vegetate like the country," - which is the 
gist of all that can be said upon the matter.  There should be 
no cackle of voices at your elbow, to jar on the meditative 
silence of the morning.  And so long as a man is reasoning he 
cannot surrender himself to that fine intoxication that comes 
of much motion in the open air, that begins in a sort of 
dazzle and sluggishness of the brain, and ends in a peace that 
passes comprehension.

During the first day or so of any tour there are moments 
of bitterness, when the traveller feels more than coldly 
towards his knapsack, when he is half in a mind to throw it 
bodily over the hedge and, like Christian on a similar 
occasion, "give three leaps and go on singing."  And yet it 
soon acquires a property of easiness.  It becomes magnetic; 
the spirit of the journey enters into it.  And no sooner have 
you passed the straps over your shoulder than the lees of 
sleep are cleared from you, you pull yourself together with a 
shake, and fall at once into your stride.  And surely, of all 
possible moods, this, in which a man takes the road, is the 
best.  Of course, if he WILL keep thinking of his anxieties, 
if he WILL open the merchant Abudah's chest and walk arm-in-
arm with the hag - why, wherever he is, and whether he walk 
fast or slow, the chances are that he will not be happy.  And 
so much the more shame to himself!  There are perhaps thirty 
men setting forth at that same hour, and I would lay a large 
wager there is not another dull face among the thirty.  It 
would be a fine thing to follow, in a coat of darkness, one 
after another of these wayfarers, some summer morning, for the 
first few miles upon the road.  This one, who walks fast, with 
a keen look in his eyes, is all concentrated in his own mind; 
he is up at his loom, weaving and weaving, to set the 
landscape to words.  This one peers about, as he goes, among 
the grasses; he waits by the canal to watch the dragon-flies; 
he leans on the gate of the pasture, and cannot look enough 
upon the complacent kine.  And here comes another, talking, 
laughing, and gesticulating to himself.  His face changes from 
time to time, as indignation flashes from his eyes or anger 
clouds his forehead.  He is composing articles, delivering 
orations, and conducting the most impassioned interviews, by 
the way.  A little farther on, and it is as like as not he 
will begin to sing.  And well for him, supposing him to be no 
great master in that art, if he stumble across no stolid 
peasant at a corner; for on such an occasion, I scarcely know 
which is the more troubled, or whether it is worse to suffer 
the confusion of your troubadour, or the unfeigned alarm of 
your clown.  A sedentary population, accustomed, besides, to 
the strange mechanical bearing of the common tramp, can in no 
wise explain to itself the gaiety of these passers-by.  I knew 
one man who was arrested as a runaway lunatic, because, 
although a full-grown person with a red beard, he skipped as 
he went like a child.  And you would be astonished if I were 
to tell you all the grave and learned heads who have confessed 
to me that, when on walking tours, they sang - and sang very 
ill - and had a pair of red ears when, as described above, the 
inauspicious peasant plumped into their arms from round a 
corner.  And here, lest you should think I am exaggerating, is 
Hazlitt's own confession, from his essay ON GOING A JOURNEY, 
which is so good that there should be a tax levied on all who 
have not read it:-

"Give me the clear blue sky over my head," says he, "and 
the green turf beneath my feet, a winding road before me, and 
a three hours' march to dinner - and then to thinking!  It is 
hard if I cannot start some game on these lone heaths.  I 
laugh, I run, I leap, I sing for joy."

Bravo!  After that adventure of my friend with the 
policeman, you would not have cared, would you, to publish 
that in the first person?  But we have no bravery nowadays, 
and, even in books, must all pretend to be as dull and foolish 
as our neighbours.  It was not so with Hazlitt.  And notice 
how learned he is (as, indeed, throughout the essay) in the 
theory of walking tours.  He is none of your athletic men in 
purple stockings, who walk their fifty miles a day: three 
hours' march is his ideal.  And then he must have a winding 
road, the epicure!

Yet there is one thing I object to in these words of his, 
one thing in the great master's practice that seems to me not 
wholly wise.  I do not approve of that leaping and running.  
Both of these hurry the respiration; they both shake up the 
brain out of its glorious open-air confusion; and they both 
break the pace.  Uneven walking is not so agreeable to the 
body, and it distracts and irritates the mind.  Whereas, when 
once you have fallen into an equable stride, it requires no 
conscious thought from you to keep it up, and yet it prevents 
you from thinking earnestly of anything else.  Like knitting, 
like the work of a copying clerk, it gradually neutralises and 
sets to sleep the serious activity of the mind.  We can think 
of this or that, lightly and laughingly, as a child thinks, or 
as we think in a morning dose; we can make puns or puzzle out 
acrostics, and trifle in a thousand ways with words and 
rhymes; but when it comes to honest work, when we come to 
gather ourselves together for an effort, we may sound the 
trumpet as loud and long as we please; the great barons of the 
mind will not rally to the standard, but sit, each one, at 
home, warming his hands over his own fire and brooding on his 
own private thought!

In the course of a day's walk, you see, there is much 
variance in the mood.  From the exhilaration of the start, to 
the happy phlegm of the arrival, the change is certainly 
great.  As the day goes on, the traveller moves from the one 
extreme towards the other.  He becomes more and more 
incorporated with the material landscape, and the open-air 
drunkenness grows upon him with great strides, until he posts 
along the road, and sees everything about him, as in a 
cheerful dream.  The first is certainly brighter, but the 
second stage is the more peaceful.  A man does not make so 
many articles towards the end, nor does he laugh aloud; but 
the purely animal pleasures, the sense of physical wellbeing, 
the delight of every inhalation, of every time the muscles 
tighten down the thigh, console him for the absence of the 
others, and bring him to his destination still content.

Nor must I forget to say a word on bivouacs.  You come to 
a milestone on a hill, or some place where deep ways meet 
under trees; and off goes the knapsack, and down you sit to 
smoke a pipe in the shade.  You sink into yourself, and the 
birds come round and look at you; and your smoke dissipates 
upon the afternoon under the blue dome of heaven; and the sun 
lies warm upon your feet, and the cool air visits your neck 
and turns aside your open shirt.  If you are not happy, you 
must have an evil conscience.  You may dally as long as you 
like by the roadside.  It is almost as if the millennium were 
arrived, when we shall throw our clocks and watches over the 
housetop, 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!  It is to be 
noticed, there were no clocks and watches in the much-vaunted 
days before the flood.  It follows, of course, there were no 
appointments, and punctuality was not yet thought upon.  
"Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure," says 
Milton, "he has yet one jewel left; ye cannot deprive him of 
his covetousness."  And so I would say of a modern man of 
business, you may do what you will for him, put him in Eden, 
give him the elixir of life - he has still a flaw at heart, he 
still has his business habits.  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 

But it is at night, and after dinner, that the best hour 
comes.  There are no such pipes to be smoked as those that 
follow a good day's march; the flavour of the tobacco is a 
thing to be remembered, it is so dry and aromatic, so full and 
so fine.  If you wind up the evening with grog, you will own 
there was never such grog; at every sip a jocund tranquillity 
spreads about your limbs, and sits easily in your heart.  If 
you read a book - and you will never do so save by fits and 
starts - you find the language strangely racy and harmonious; 
words take a new meaning; single sentences possess the ear for 
half an hour together; and the writer endears himself to you, 
at every page, by the nicest coincidence of sentiment.  It 
seems as if it were a book you had written yourself in a 
dream.  To all we have read on such occasions we look back 
with special favour.  "It was on the 10th of April, 1798," 
says Hazlitt, with amorous precision, "that I sat down to a 
volume of the new HELOISE, at the Inn at Llangollen, over a 
bottle of sherry and a cold chicken."  I should wish to quote 
more, for though we are mighty fine fellows nowadays, we 
cannot write like Hazlitt.  And, talking of that, a volume of 
Hazlitt's essays would be a capital pocket-book on such a 
journey; so would a volume of Heine's songs; and for TRISTRAM 
SHANDY I can pledge a fair experience.

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.

Or perhaps you are left to your own company for the 
night, and surly weather imprisons you by the fire.  You may 
remember how Burns, numbering past pleasures, dwells upon the 
hours when he has been "happy thinking."  It is a phrase that 
may well perplex a poor modern, girt about on every side by 
clocks and chimes, and haunted, even at night, by flaming 
dial-plates.  For 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?  
After all, it is not they who carry flags, but they who look 
upon it from a private chamber, who have the fun of the 
procession.  And once you are at that, you are in the very 
humour of all social heresy.  It is no time for shuffling, or 
for big, empty words.  If you ask yourself what you mean by 
fame, riches, or learning, the answer is far to seek; and you 
go back into that kingdom of light imaginations, which seem so 
vain in the eyes of Philistines perspiring after wealth, and 
so momentous to those who are stricken with the disproportions 
of the world, and, in the face of the gigantic stars, cannot 
stop to split differences between two degrees of the 
infinitesimally small, such as a tobacco pipe or the Roman 
Empire, a million of money or a fiddlestick's end.

You lean from the window, your last pipe reeking whitely 
into the darkness, your body full of delicious pains, your 
mind enthroned in the seventh circle of content; when suddenly 
the mood changes, the weather-cock goes about, and you ask 
yourself one question more: whether, for the interval, you 
have been the wisest philosopher or the most egregious of 
donkeys?  Human experience is not yet able to reply; but at 
least you have had a fine moment, and looked down upon all the 
kingdoms of the earth.  And whether it was wise or foolish, 
to-morrow's travel will carry you, body and mind, into some 
different parish of the infinite.


THE world in which we live has been variously said and 
sung by the most ingenious poets and philosophers: these 
reducing it to formulae and chemical ingredients, those 
striking the lyre in high-sounding measures for the handiwork 
of God.  What experience supplies is of a mingled tissue, and 
the choosing mind has much to reject before it can get 
together the materials of a theory.  Dew and thunder, 
destroying Atilla and the Spring lambkins, belong to an order 
of contrasts which no repetition can assimilate.  There is an 
uncouth, outlandish strain throughout the web of the world, as 
from a vexatious planet in the house of life.  Things are not 
congruous and wear strange disguises: the consummate flower is 
fostered out of dung, and after nourishing itself awhile with 
heaven's delicate distillations, decays again into 
indistinguishable soil; and with Caesar's ashes, Hamlet tells 
us, the urchins make dirt pies and filthily besmear their 
countenance.  Nay, the kindly shine of summer, when tracked 
home with the scientific spyglass, is found to issue from the 
most portentous nightmare of the universe - the great, 
conflagrant sun: a world of hell's squibs, tumultuary, roaring 
aloud, inimical to life.  The sun itself is enough to disgust 
a human being of the scene which he inhabits; and you would 
not fancy there was a green or habitable spot in a universe 
thus awfully lighted up.  And yet it is by the blaze of such a 
conflagration, to which the fire of Rome was but a spark, that 
we do all our fiddling, and hold domestic tea-parties at the 
arbour door.

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 
aethers, 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.

For it is a shaggy world, and yet studded with gardens; 
where the salt and tumbling sea receives clear rivers running 
from among reeds and lilies; fruitful and austere; a rustic 
world; sunshiny, lewd, and cruel.  What is it the birds sing 
among the trees in pairing-time?  What means the sound of the 
rain falling far and wide upon the leafy forest?  To what tune 
does the fisherman whistle, as he hauls in his net at morning, 
and the bright fish are heaped inside the boat?  These are all 
airs upon Pan's pipe; he it was who gave them breath in the 
exultation of his heart, and gleefully modulated their outflow 
with his lips and fingers.  The coarse mirth of herdsmen, 
shaking the dells with laughter and striking out high echoes 
from the rock; the tune of moving feet in the lamplit city, or 
on the smooth ballroom floor; the hooves of many horses, 
beating the wide pastures in alarm; the song of hurrying 
rivers; the colour of clear skies; and smiles and the live 
touch of hands; and the voice of things, and their significant 
look, and the renovating influence they breathe forth - these 
are his joyful measures, to which the whole earth treads in 
choral harmony.  To this music the young lambs bound as to a 
tabor, and the London shop-girl skips rudely in the dance.  
For it puts a spirit of gladness in all hearts; and 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.

Alas if that were all!  But oftentimes the air is 
changed; and in the screech of the night wind, chasing navies, 
subverting the tall ships and the rooted cedar of the hills; 
in the random deadly levin or the fury of headlong floods, we 
recognise the "dread foundation" of life and the anger in 
Pan's heart.  Earth wages open war against her children, and 
under her softest touch hides treacherous claws.  The cool 
waters invite us in to drown; the domestic hearth burns up in 
the hour of sleep, and makes an end of all.  Everything is 
good or bad, helpful or deadly, not in itself, but by its 
circumstances.  For a few bright days in England the hurricane 
must break forth and the North Sea pay a toll of populous 
ships.  And when the universal music has led lovers into the 
paths of dalliance, confident of Nature's sympathy, suddenly 
the air shifts into a minor, and death makes a clutch from his 
ambuscade below the bed of marriage.  For death is given in a 
kiss; the dearest kindnesses are fatal; and into this life, 
where one thing preys upon another, the child too often makes 
its entrance from the mother's corpse.  It is no wonder, with 
so traitorous a scheme of things, if the wise people who 
created for us the idea of Pan thought that of all fears the 
fear of him was the most terrible, since it embraces all.  And 
still we preserve the phrase: a panic terror.  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!  Shrilly sound 
Pan's pipes; and behold the banker instantly concealed in the 
bank parlour!  For to distrust one's impulses is to be 
recreant to Pan.

There are moments when the mind refuses to be satisfied 
with evolution, and demands a ruddier presentation of the sum 
of man's experience.  Sometimes the mood is brought about by 
laughter at the humorous side of life, as when, abstracting 
ourselves from earth, we imagine people plodding on foot, or 
seated in ships and speedy trains, with the planet all the 
while whirling in the opposite direction, so that, for all 
their hurry, they travel back-foremost through the universe of 
space.  Sometimes it comes by the spirit of delight, and 
sometimes by the spirit of terror.  At least, there will 
always be hours when we refuse to be put off by the feint of 
explanation, nicknamed science; and demand instead some 
palpitating image of our estate, that shall represent the 
troubled and uncertain element in which we dwell, and satisfy 
reason by the means of art.  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.


CITIES given, the problem was to light them.  How to 
conduct individual citizens about the burgess-warren, when 
once heaven had withdrawn its leading luminary? or - since we 
live in a scientific age - when once our spinning planet has 
turned its back upon the sun?  The moon, from time to time, 
was doubtless very helpful; the stars had a cheery look among 
the chimney-pots; and a cresset here and there, on church or 
citadel, produced a fine pictorial effect, and, in places 
where the ground lay unevenly, held out the right hand of 
conduct to the benighted.  But sun, moon, and stars abstracted 
or concealed, the night-faring inhabitant had to fall back - 
we speak on the authority of old prints - upon stable 
lanthorns two stories in height.  Many holes, drilled in the 
conical turret-roof of this vagabond Pharos, let up spouts of 
dazzlement into the bearer's eyes; and as he paced forth in 
the ghostly darkness, carrying his own sun by a ring about his 
finger, day and night swung to and fro and up and down about 
his footsteps.  Blackness haunted his path; he was beleaguered 
by goblins as he went; and, curfew being struck, he found no 
light but that he travelled in throughout the township.

Closely following on this epoch of migratory lanthorns in 
a world of extinction, came the era of oil-lights, hard to 
kindle, easy to extinguish, pale and wavering in the hour of 
their endurance.  Rudely puffed the winds of heaven; roguishly 
clomb up the all-destructive urchin; and, lo! in a moment 
night re-established her void empire, and the cit groped along 
the wall, suppered but bedless, occult from guidance, and 
sorrily wading in the kennels.  As if gamesome winds and 
gamesome youths were not sufficient, it was the habit to sling 
these feeble luminaries from house to house above the fairway.  
There, on invisible cordage, let them swing!  And suppose some 
crane-necked general to go speeding by on a tall charger, 
spurring the destiny of nations, red-hot in expedition, there 
would indubitably be some effusion of military blood, and 
oaths, and a certain crash of glass; and while the chieftain 
rode forward with a purple coxcomb, the street would be left 
to original darkness, unpiloted, unvoyageable, a province of 
the desert night.

The conservative, looking before and after, draws from 
each contemplation the matter for content.  Out of the age of 
gas lamps he glances back slightingly at the mirk and glimmer 
in which his ancestors wandered; his heart waxes jocund at the 
contrast; nor do his lips refrain from a stave, in the highest 
style of poetry, lauding progress and the golden mean.  When 
gas first spread along a city, mapping it forth about evenfall 
for the eye of observant birds, a new age had begun for 
sociality and corporate pleasure-seeking, and begun with 
proper circumstance, becoming its own birthright.  The work of 
Prometheus had advanced by another stride.  Mankind and its 
supper parties were no longer at the mercy of a few miles of 
sea-fog; sundown no longer emptied the promenade; and the day 
was lengthened out to every man's fancy.  The city-folk had 
stars of their own; biddable, domesticated stars.

It is true that these were not so steady, nor yet so 
clear, as their originals; nor indeed was their lustre so 
elegant as that of the best wax candles.  But then the gas 
stars, being nearer at hand, were more practically efficacious 
than Jupiter himself.  It is true, again, that they did not 
unfold their rays with the appropriate spontaneity of the 
planets, coming out along the firmament one after another, as 
the need arises. But the lamplighters took to their heels 
every evening, and ran with a good heart. It was pretty to see 
man thus emulating the punctuality of heaven's orbs; and 
though perfection was not absolutely reached, and now and then 
an individual may have been knocked on the head by the ladder 
of the flying functionary, yet people commended his zeal in a 
proverb, and taught their children to say, "God bless the 
lamplighter!"  And since his passage was a piece of the day's 
programme, the children were well pleased to repeat the 
benediction, not, of course, in so many words, which would 
have been improper, but in some chaste circumlocution, 
suitable for infant lips.

God bless him, indeed!  For the term of his twilight 
diligence is near at hand; and for not much longer shall we 
watch him speeding up the street and, at measured intervals, 
knocking another luminous hole into the dusk.  The Greeks 
would have made a noble myth of such an one; how he 
distributed starlight, and, as soon as the need was over, re-
collected it; and the little bull's-eye, which was his 
instrument, and held enough fire to kindle a whole parish, 
would have been fitly commemorated in the legend.  Now, like 
all heroic tasks, his labours draw towards apotheosis, and in 
the light of victory himself shall disappear.  For another 
advance has been effected.  Our tame stars are to come out in 
future, not one by one, but all in a body and at once.  A 
sedate electrician somewhere in a back office touches a spring 
- and behold! from one end to another of the city, from east 
to west, from the Alexandra to the Crystal Palace, there is 
light!  FIAT LUX, says the sedate electrician.  What a 
spectacle, on some clear, dark nightfall, from the edge of 
Hampstead Hill, when in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, 
the design of the monstrous city flashes into vision - a 
glittering hieroglyph many square miles in extent; and when, 
to borrow and debase an image, all the evening street-lamps 
burst together into song!  Such is the spectacle of the 
future, preluded the other day by the experiment in Pall Mall.  
Star-rise by electricity, the most romantic flight of 
civilisation; the compensatory benefit for an innumerable 
array of factories and bankers' clerks.  To the artistic 
spirit exercised about Thirlmere, here is a crumb of 
consolation; consolatory, at least, to such of them as look 
out upon the world through seeing eyes, and contentedly accept 
beauty where it comes.

But the conservative, while lauding progress, is ever 
timid of innovation; his is the hand upheld to counsel pause; 
his is the signal advising slow advance.  The word ELECTRICITY 
now sounds the note of danger.  In Paris, at the mouth of the 
Passage des Princes, in the place before the Opera portico, 
and in the Rue Drouot at the FIGARO office, a new sort of 
urban star now shines out nightly, horrible, unearthly, 
obnoxious to the human eye; a lamp for a nightmare!  Such a 
light as this should shine only on murders and public crime, 
or along the corridors of lunatic asylums, a horror to 
heighten horror.  To look at it only once is to fall in love 
with gas, which gives a warm domestic radiance fit to eat by.  
Mankind, you would have thought, might have remained content 
with what Prometheus stole for them and not gone fishing the 
profound heaven with kites to catch and domesticate the 
wildfire of the storm.  Yet here we have the levin brand at 
our doors, and it is proposed that we should henceforward take 
our walks abroad in the glare of permanent lightning.  A man 
need not be very superstitious if he scruple to follow his 
pleasures by the light of the Terror that Flieth, nor very 
epicurean if he prefer to see the face of beauty more 
becomingly displayed.  That ugly blinding glare may not 
improperly advertise the home of slanderous FIGARO, which is a 
backshop to the infernal regions; but where soft joys prevail, 
where people are convoked to pleasure and the philosopher 
looks on smiling and silent, where love and laughter and 
deifying wine abound, there, at least, let the old mild lustre 
shine upon the ways of man.

End of the Project Gutenberg eText Virginibus Puerisque


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