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in'. And then," said the sagacious old farmer, with extreme earnestness, "if he comes to think that ye ken naething aboot plowin' and sawin', he'll think that ye ken naething aboot onything!" Yes, it is natural to us all to think that if the machine assemblage-when attorney-general — that breaks down at that work in which we are competent to test it, then the machine cannot do any work at all.
folk to suppose that Lord Eldon was next door to an idiot. And a good many other things which that chancellor did, such as his quotations from Scripture in the House of Commons, and his attempts to convince that
Napoleon I. was the Apocalyptic Beast or the Little Horn, certainly point towards the same conclusion. But the conclusion, as a If you have a strong current of water, you general one, would be wrong. No doubt may turn it into any channel you please, and Lord Eldon was a wise and sagacious man make it do any work you please. With as judge and statesman, though as wit and equal energy and success it will flow north poet he was almost an idiot. So with other or south; it will turn a corn-mill, or a thresh-great men. It is easy to remember occasions ing-machine, or a grindstone. Many people on which great men have done very foolish live under a vague impression that the hu- things. There never was a truer hero nor a man mind is like that. They think-Here greater commander than Lord Nelson; but is so much ability, so much energy, which in some things he was merely an awkward, may be turned in any direction, and made to overgrown midshipman. But then, let us do any work; and they are surprised to find remember, that a locomotive engine, though that the power, available and great for one excellent at running, would be a poor hand kind of work, is worth nothing for another. at flying. That is not its vocation. The A man very clever at one thing, is positively engine will draw fifteen heavy carriages fifty weak and stupid at another thing. A very miles in an hour; and that remains as a nogood judge may be a wretchedly bad joker; ble feat, even though it be ascertained that and he must go through his career at this the engine could not jump over a brook disadvantage, that people, finding him silly which would be cleared easily by the veriest at the thing they are able to estimate, find screw. We all see this. But many of us it hard to believe that he is not silly at every-have a confused idea that a great and clever thing. I know for myself that it would not man is-so to speak-a locomotive that can be right that the premier should request me fly; and when it is proved that he cannot fly, to look out for a suitable chancellor. I am then we begin to doubt whether he can even
not competent to appreciate the depth of a run. We think he should be good at every man's knowledge of equity; by which I do thing, whether in his own line or not. And not mean justice, but chancery law. But he is set at a disadvantage, particularly in though quite unable to understand how great the judgment of vulgar and stupid people, a chancellor Lord Eldon was, I am quite when it is clearly ascertained that at some able to estimate how great a poet he was; things he is very inferior. I have heard of also how great a wit. Here is a poem by a very eminent preacher, who sunk considerthat eminent person. Doubtless he regarded ably-even as regards his preaching—in the it as a wonder of happy versification, as well estimation of a certain family, because it apas instinct with the most convulsing fun. It peared that he played very badly at bowls. is intended to set out in a metrical form, the And we all know that occasionally the precareer of a certain judge, who went up as a mier already mentioned reverses the vulgar poor lad from Scotland to England, but did error, and in appointing men to great places, well at the bar, and ultimately found his is guided by an axiom which amounts to just place upon the bench. Here is Lord Chan- this: this locomotive can run well, therefore cellor Eldon's humorous poem :it will fly well. This man has filled a certain position well, therefore let us appoint him to a position entirely different; no doubt he will do well there too. Here is a clergyman who has edited certain Greek plays admirably: let us make him a bishop.
"James Allan Parke
But he got clothes,
Now the fact that Lord Eldon wrote that poem, and valued it highly, would lead some
It may be remarked here, that the men
who have attained the greatest success in ers. The man has not his powers at comthe race of life, have generally carried mand. His mind is a capricious thing, that weight. Nitor in adversum might be the works when it pleases, and will not work exmotto of many a man, besides Burke. It cept when it pleases. I am not thinking seems to be almost a general rule, that the now of what to many is a sad disadvantage; raw material out of which the finest fabrics that nervous trepidation which cannot be are made, should look very little like these, reasoned away, and which often deprives to start with. It was a stammerer, of un- them of the full use of their mental abilities commanding mien, who became the greatest just when they are most needed. It is a vast orator of graceful Greece. I believe it is ad- thing in a man's favor that, whatever he can mitted that Chalmers was the most effective do, he should be able to do at any time, and preacher, perhaps the most telling speaker, to do at once. For want of coolness of that Britain has seen for at least a century; mind, and that readiness which generally yet his aspect was not dignified, his gestures goes with it, many a man cannot do himself were awkward, his voice was bad, and his justice; and in a deliberative assembly he accent frightful. He talked of an oppning may be entirely beaten by some flippant when he meant an opening; and he read out person who has all his money-so to speakthe text of one of his noblest sermons, "He in his pocket, while the other must send to that is fulthy, let him be fulthy stull." Yet the bank for his. How many people can who ever thought of these things, after hear- think next day, or even a few minutes after, ing the good man for ten minutes ? Ay, of the precise thing they ought to have said, load Eclipse with what extra pounds you but which would not come at the time! But might, Eclipse would always be first! And, very frequently the thing is of no value, unto descend to the race-horse, he had four less it come at the time when it is wanted. white legs, white to the knees; and he ran Coming next day, it is like the offer of a more awkwardly than racer ever did, with his thick fur great-coat on a sweltering day ir. head between his fore legs, close to the July. You look at the wrap, and say, Oh, if ground, like a pig. Alexander, Napoleon, I could but have had you on the December and Wellington, were all little men; in night when I went to London by the limited places where a commanding presence would mail, and was nearly starved to death! But have been of no small value. A most disa- it seems as if the mind must be, to a certain greeably affected manner has not prevented extent, capricious in its action. Caprice, or a barrister, with no special advantages, from what looks like it, appears of necessity to rising with general approval to the highest go with complicated machinery, even mateplaces which a barrister can fill. A hideous rial. The more complicated a machine is, little wretch has appeared for trial in a Crim- the liker it grows to mind, in the matter of inal Court, having succeeded in marrying uncertainty and apparent caprice of action. seven wives at once. A painful hesitation The simplest machine-say a pipe for conhas not hindered a certain eminent person veying water-will always act in precisely from being one of the principal speakers in the same way. And two such pipes, if of the British Parliament, for many years. the same dimensions, and subjected to the Yes, even disadvantages never overcome same pressure, will always convey the selfhave not sufficed to hold in obscurity men same quantities. But go to more advanced who were at once able and fortunate. But machines. Take two clocks, or two locomosometimes the disadvantage was thoroughly tive engines; and though these are made in overcome. Sometimes it served no other end than to draw to one point the attention and the efforts of a determined will; and that matter, in regard to which nature seemed to have said that a man should fall short, became the thing in which he attained unrivalled perfection.
A heavy drag-weight upon the powers of some men, is the uncertainty of their pow
all respects exactly alike, they will act—I can answer at least for the locomotive engines-quite differently. One locomotive will swallow a vast quantity of water at once; another must be fed by driblets; no one can say why. One engine is a fac-simile of the other; yet each has its character and its peculiarities, as truly as a man has. You need to know your engine's temper before driving it, just as much as you need to know
that of your horse, or that of your friend. | own church upon a common Sunday; and I know, of course, there is a mechanical possibly you may hear a very ordinary serreason for this seeming caprice, if you could mon. I have heard Mr. Melvill preach very trace the reason. But not one man in a poorly. You must not expect to find people thousand could trace out the reason. And always at their best. It is a very unusual the phenomenon, as it presses itself upon us, thing that even the ablest men should be like really amounts to this: that very compli- Burke, who could talk with an intelligent cated machinery appears to have a will of its stranger for five minutes, without convincing own; appears to exercise something of the the stranger that he had talked for five nature of choice. But there is no machine minutes with a great man. And it is an so capricious as the human mind. The great awful thing when some clever youth is intropoet who wrote those beautiful verses, could duced to some local poet who has been told not do that every day. A good deal more how greatly the clever youth admires him; of what he writes is poor enough; and many and what vast expectations the clever youth days he could not write at all. By long has formed of his conversation; and when habit the mind may be made capable of be- the local celebrity makes a desperate effort ing put in harness daily for the humbler to talk up to the expectations formed of task of producing prose; but you cannot him. I have witnessed such a scene; and I say, when you harness it in the morning, can sincerely say that I could not previously how far or at what rate it will run that day. have believed that the local celebrity could Go and see a great organ, of which you have made such a fool of himself. He was have been told. Touch it, and you hear the resolved to show that he deserved his fame; noble tones at once. The organ can pro- and to show that the mind which had produce them at any time. But go and see a duced those lovely verses in the country great man; touch him; that is, get him to newspaper, could not stoop to commonplace begin to talk. You will be much disap- things. pointed if you expect, certainly, to hear anything like his book or his poem. A great Undue sensitiveness, and a too lowly esman is not a man who is always saying timate of their own powers, hang heavily great things; or who is always able to say upon some men; probably upon more men great things. He is a man who, on a few than one would imagine. I believe that occasions, has said great things; who, on the many a man whom you would take to be coming of a sufficient occasion, may possi- ambitious, pushing, and self-complacent, is bly say great things again; but the staple ever pressed with a sad conviction of inferiof his talk is commonplace enough. Here ority, and wishes nothing more than quietly is a point of difference from machinery, with to slip through life. It would please and all machinery's apparent caprice. You could satisfy him if he could but be assured that not say, as you pointed to a steam-engine, he is just like other people. You may reThe usual power of that engine is two hun-member a touch of nature—that is, of some dred horses; but once or twice it has sur- people's nature-in Burns; you remember prised us all by working up to two thousand. No; the engine is always of nearly the power of two thousand horses, if it ever is. But what we have been supposing as to the engine, is just what many men have done. Poe wrote The Raven; he was working then up to two thousand horse power. But he wrote abundance of poor stuff, working at about twenty-five. Read straight through the volumes of Wordsworth; and I think you will find traces of the engine having worked at many different powers, varying from twenty-five horses or less, up to two thousand or more. Go and hear a really great preacher when he is preaching in his
the simple exultation of the peasant mother when her daughter gets a sweetheart: she is "well pleased to see her bairn respeckit like the lave," that is, like the other girls round. And undue humility, perhaps even befitting humility, holds back sadly in the race of life. It is recorded that a weaver in a certain village in Scotland, was wont daily to offer a singular petition; he prayed daily and fervently for a better opinion of himself. Yes, a firm conviction of one's own importance is a great help in life. It gives dignity of bearing; it does-so to speaklift the horse over many a fence at which one with a less confident heart would have
broken down. But the man who estimates sense and right feeling. I doubt not, my himself and his place humbly and justly, friend, that you have acquaintances who can will be ready to shrink aside, and let men do things which you could not do for your of greater impudence and not greater de- life, and who, by doing these things, push sert step before him. I have often seen, with their way in life. They ask for what they a sad heart, in the case of working-peo- want, and never let a chance go by them. ple, that manner, difficult to describe, And though they may meet many rebuffs, they which comes of being what we in Scot- sometimes make a successful venture. Imland sometimes call sair hadden down. pudence sometimes attains to a pitch of subI have seen the like in educated people too. limity; and at that point it has produced a And not very many will take the trouble to very great impression upon many men. seek out and to draw out the modest merit The incapable person who started for a prothat keeps itself in the shade. The ener- fessorship, has sometimes got it. The man getic, successful people of this world are too who, amid the derision of the county, pubbusy in pushing each for himself, to have lished his address to the electors, has occatime to do that. You will find that people sionally got into the House of Commons. with abundant confidence, people who as- The vulgar, half-educated preacher, who sume a good deal, are not unfrequently without any introduction asked a patron for taken at their own estimate of themselves. a vacant living in the Church, has now and I have seen a Queen's Counsel walk into court, after the case in which he was engaged had been conducted so far by his junior, and conducted as well as mortal could conduct it. But it was easy to see that the complacent air of superior strength with which the Queen's Counsel took the management out of his junior's hands, conveyed to the jury-a common jury-the belief that things were now to be managed in quite different and vastly better style. And have you not known such a thing as that a family, not a whit better, wealthier, or more respectable than all the rest in the little country town or the country parish, do yet, by carrying their heads higher,—no mortal could say why,-gradually elbow themselves into a place of admitted social superiority? Everybody knows exactly what they are, and from what they have sprung; but somehow, by resolute assumption, by a quiet air of being better than their neighbors, they draw ahead of them, and attain the glorious advantage of one step higher on the delicately graduated social ladder of the district. Now it is manifest that if such people had sense to see their true position, and the absurdity of their pretensions, they would assuredly not have gained that advantage, whatever it may be worth.
But sense and feeling are sometimes burdens in the race of life; that is, they sometimes hold a man back from grasping material advantages which he might have grasped had he not been prevented by the possession of a certain measure of common
then got the living. And however unfit you may be for a place, and however discreditable may have been the means by which you got it, once you have actually held it for two or three years, people come to acquiesce in your holding it. They accept the fact that you are there, just as we accept the fact that any other evil exists in this world, without asking why, except on very special occasions. I believe, too, that in the matter of worldly preferment, there is too much fatalism in many good men. They have a vague trust that Providence will do more than it has promised. They are ready to think that if it is God's will that they are to gain such a prize, it will be sure to come their way without their pushing. That is a mistake. Suppose you apply the same reasoning to your dinner. Suppose you sit still in your study and say, “If I am to have dinner to-day, it will come without effort of mine; and if I am not to have dinner to-day, it will not come by any effort of mine; so here I sit still and do nothing." Is not that absurd? Yet that is what many a wise and good man practically says about the place in life which would suit him, and which would make him happy. Not Turks and Hindoos alone have a tendency to believe in their Kismet. It is human to believe in that. And we grasp at every event that seems to favor the belief. The other evening, in the twilight, I passed two respectable-looking women, who seemed like domestic servants; and I caught one sentence which one said to the other with great apparent faith.
see," she said, "if a thing's to come your those individuals who will put all sorts of way, it'll no gang by ye!" It was in a crowded street; but if it had been in my country parish where every one knew me, I should certainly have stopped the women, and told them that though what they said was quite true, I feared they were understanding it wrongly; and that the firm belief we all hold in God's Providence which reaches to all events, and in his sovereignty which orders all things, should be used to help us to be resigned, after we have done our best and failed; but should never be used as an excuse for not doing our best. When we have set our mind on any honest end, let us seek to compass it by every honest means; and if we fail after having used every honest means, then let us fall back on the comfortable belief that things are ordered by the Wisest and Kindest; then is the time for the Fiat Voluntas Tua.
questions as to the private affairs of other people, but carefully shy off from any similar confidence as to their own affairs; also those individuals who borrow small sums of money and never repay them, but go on borrowing till the small sums amount to a good deal. To the same class may be referred the persons who lay themselves out for saying disagreeable things: the "candid friends" of Canning: the "people who speak their mind," who form such pests of society. To find fault is to right-feeling men a very painful thing; but some take to the work with avidity and delight. And while people of cultivation shrink, with a delicate intuition, from saying anything which may give pain or cause uneasiness to others, there are others who are ever painfully treading upon the moral corns of all around them. Sometimes this is done designedly, as by Mr. Snarling, who by long practice has attained the power of hinting and insinuating, in the course of a forenoon call, as many unpleasant things as may germinate into a crop of ill-tempers and worries which shall make the house at which he called uncomfortable all that day. Sometimes it is done unawares, as by Mr. Boor, who, through pure ignorance and coarseness, is always bellowing out things which it is disagreeable to some one, or to several, to hear. Which was it, I wonder, Boor or Snarling, who once reached the dignity of the mitre; and who, at prayers in his house, uttered this supplication on behalf of a lady visitor who was kneeling beside him: "Bless our friend, Mrs. -: give her a little more common sense; and teach her to dress a little less like a tragedy queen than she does at present "?
You would not wish, my friend, to be deprived of common sense and of delicate feeling, even though you could be quite sure that once that drag-weight was taken off, you would spring forward to the van, and make such running in the race of life as you never made before. Still, you cannot help looking with a certain interest upon those people who, by the want of these hindering influences, are enabled to do things and say things which you never could. I have sometimes looked with no small curiosity upon the kind of man who will come uninvited, and without warning of his approach, to stay at another man's house; who will stay on, quite comfortable and unmoved, though seeing plainly he is not wanted: who will arnounce, on arriving, that his visit is to be for three days, and who will then, without further remark, and without invitation of any kind, remain for a month or six weeks; and all the while sit down to dinner every day with a perfectly easy and unembarrassed circumstances which lie like a depressing manner. You and I, my reader, would rather live on much less than sixpence a day than do all this. We could not do it. But some people not merely can do it, but can do it without any appearance of effort. Oh, if the people who are victimized by these horse-leeches of society could but gain a little of the thickness of skin which characterizes the horse-leeches, and bid them be off, and not return again till they are invited! To the same pachydermatous class belong
But who shall reckon up the countless
burden on the energies of men, and make them work at that disadvantage which we have thought of under the figure of carrying weight in life? There are men who carry weight in a damp, marshy neighborhood, who, amid the bracing mountain air, might have done things which now they will never do. There are men who carry weight in an uncomfortable house; in smoky chimneys; in a study with a dismal look-out; in distance from a railway station; in ten miles