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The Pocket R.L.S. by by Robert Louis Stevenson

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This Etext of THE POCKET R. L. S. scanned and proofread
by Sean Hackett (shack@eircom.net)

THE POCKET R. L. S.
Being favourite passages from the works of Stevenson.

SELECTED PASSAGES

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

THE VAGABOND

(TO AN AIR OF SCHUBERT)

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

A SONG OF THE ROAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

THE COUNTRY OF THE CAMISARDS

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

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

*

The accepted novelist may take his novel up and put it
down, spend days upon it in vain, and write not any more
than he makes haste to blot. Not so the Beginner. Human
nature has certain rights ; instinct--the instinct of
self-preservation--forbids that any man (cheered and supported
by the consciousness of no previous victory) should endure
the miseries of unsuccessful literary toil beyond a period
to be measured in weeks. There must be something for hope
to feed upon. The beginner must have a slant of wind, a
lucky vein must be running, he must be in one of those

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