Virginibus Puerisque
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Hypertext Meanings and Commentaries
from the Encyclopedia of the Self
by Mark Zimmerman

Virginibus Puerisque


Robert Louis Stevenson

    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.

          The End

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