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There, either in society or in literature, they sort of charity which pasees silver from hand grow morbid.
to hand. Yet, although it is useless to attempt to ele- Shortly after the termination of the great vate any human being above his own intel- Franco-German conflict, M. Taine suggested lectual level unless he gradually climbs him- in the Temps that subscribers to the better self as a man ascends a mountain, there are sort of journals might do a good deal for the nevertheless certain charities or condescend- enlightenment of the humbler classes by ences of the highly cultivated which may be merely lending their newspapers in their good for the lower intelligences that surround neighborhood. This was a good suggestion: them, as the streams from the Alpine snows the best newspapers are an important intelare good for the irrigation of the valleys, lectual propaganda; they awaken an interest though the meadows which they water must in the most various subjects, and supply not forever remain eight or ten thousand feet only information but a stimulus. The danger below them. And I believe that it would to persons of higher culture that the news. greatly add to the happiness of the intellect- paper may absorb time which would else be ual portion of mankind if they could more devoted to more systematic study, does not systematically exercise these charities. It is exist in the classes for whose benefit M. Taine quite clear that we can never effect by chance made his recommendation. The newspaper conversation that total change in the mental is their only secular reading, and without it state which is gradually brought about by the they have no modern literature of any kind. slow processes of education; we cannot give In addition to the praiseworthy habit of lendto an intellect that has never been developed, ing good newspapers, an intellectual man who and which has fixed itself in the undeveloped lives in the country might adopt the practice state, that power and activity which come of conversing with his neighbors about everyonly after years of labor; but we may be able thing in which they could be induced to take on many occasions to offer the sort of help an interest, giving them some notion of what Thich a gentleman offers to an old woman goes on in the classes which are intellectually when he invites her to get up into the rumble active, some idea of such discoveries and projbehind his carriage. I knew an intellectual ects as an untutored mind may partially unlady who lived habitually in the country, and derstand. For example, there is the great I may say without fanciful exaggeration that tunnel under the Mont Cenis, and there is the the farmers' wives round about her were con- projected tunnel beneath the Channel, and siderably superior to what in all probability there is the cutting of the Isthmus of Suez. they would have been without the advantage A peasant can comprehend the greatness of
her kindly and instructive conversation. these remarkable conceptions when they are She possessed the happy art of conveying the properly explained to him, and he will often urt of knowledge which could be readily re- feel a lively gratitude for information of that Rived by her hearers, and in a manner which kind. We ought to remember what a slow made it agreeable to them, so that they drew and painful operation reading is to the uneddeas from her quite naturally, and her mind ucated. Merely to read the native tongue is Irigated their minds, which would have re- to them a labor so irksome that they are apt mained permanently barren without that help to lose the sense of a paragraph in seeking for and refreshment. It would be foolish to ex- that of a sentence or an expression. As they aggerate the benefits of such intellectual char- would rather speak than have to write, so ity as this, but it is well, on the other hand, they prefer hearing to reading, and they get not to undervalue it. Such an influence can much more good from it, because they can never convey much solid instruction, but it ask a question when the matter has not been nay convey some of its results. It may made clear to them. produce a more thoughtful and reasonable One of the best ways of interesting and incondition of mind, it may preserve the igno- structing your intellectual inferiors is to give want from some of those preposterous theories them an account of your travels. All peoind beliefs which so easily gain currency ple like to hear a traveller tell his own tale, Imongst them. Indirectly, it may have and whilst he is telling it he may slip in a rather an important political influence, by good deal of information about many things, fisposing people to vote for the better sort and much sound doctrine. Accounts of forI candidate. And the influence of such eign countries, even when you have not seen ntellectual charity on the material well them personally, nearly always awaken a being of the humbler classes, on their lively interest, especially if you are able to salth and wealth, may be quite as consider give your hearers detailed descriptions of the ble as that of the other and more common life led by foreigners who occupy positions
in the botence, by and whilsto
corresponding to their own. Peasants can the thirty-six; and so long as one of the eleven be made to take an interest in astronomy remained I ought to have contentedly taught even, though you cannot tell them anything him. The success of a teacher is not to be about the peasants in Jupiter and Mars, and measured by the numbers whom he immedithere is always, at starting, the great diffi- ately influences. It is enough, it has been culty of persuading them to trust science proved to be enough in more than one remarkabout the motion and rotundity of the earth. able instance, that a single living soul should
A very direct form of intellectual charity be in unison with the soul of a master, and is that of gratuitous teaching, both in classes receive his thought by sympathy. The one and by public lectures, open to all comers. disciple teaches in his turn, and the idea is A great deal of light has in this way been propagated. spread abroad in cities, but in country villages there is little encouragement to enterprises of this kind, the intelligence of farm |
LETTER IV. laborers being less awakened than that of the corresponding urban population. Let us re- TO THE FRIEND OF A MAN OF HIGH CULTURE member, however, that one of the very high
WHO PRODUCED NOTHING. est and last achievements of the cultivated
Joubert--"Not yet time," or else " The time is past”-His intellect is the art of conveying to the uncul
weakness for production-Three classes of minds-A tivated, the untaught, the unprepared, the more perfect intellectual life attainable by the silent stubest and noblest knowledge which they are dent than by authors-He may follow his own genius
Saving of time effected by abstinence from writing-The capable of assimilating. No one who, like the
unproductive may be more influential t'ian the prollic, writer of these pages, has lived much in the country, and much amongst a densely igno WHEN I met B. at your house la t week, rant peasantry, will be likely in any plans of you whispered to me in the drawing-room that enlightenment to err far on the side of enthu- he was a man of the most remarkable attainsiastic hopefulness. The mind of a farm la- ments, who, to the great regret of all his borer, or that of a small farmer, is almost al- friends, had never employed his abilities to ways sure to be a remarkably stiff soil, in any visible purpose. We had not time for a which few intellectual conceptions can take conversation on this subject, because B. him root; yet these few may make the difference self immediately joined us. His talk remind between an existence worthy of a man, anded me very much of Joubert-not that I eve one that differs from the existence of a brute knew Joubert personally, though I have lived in little beyond the possession of articulate very near to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, wher language. We to whom the rich inheritance Joubert lived; but he is one of those charac of intellectual humanity is so familiar as to ters whom it is possible to know without hav have lost much of its freshness, are liable to ing seen them in the flesh. His friends used underrate the value of thoughts and discov- to urge him to write something, and then hi eries which to us have for years seemed com- said, “ Pas encore.” “Not yet; I need a lon monplace. It is with our intellectual as with peace.” Tranquillity came, and then he said our material wealth; we do not realize how that God had only given force to his mind fo precious some fragments of it might be to our a limited time, and that the time was past poorer neighbors. The old clothes that we Therefore, as Sainte-Beuve observed, for Jou wear no longer may give comfort and confi- bert there was no medium; either it was no dence to a man in naked destitution; the yet time, or else the time was past. truths which are so familiar to us that we Nothing is more common than for othe never think about them, may raise the utterly people to say this of us. They often say “H ignorant to a sense of their human brother is too young," as Napoleon said of Ingres, a hood.
else “He is too old,” as Napoleon said Above all, in the exercise of our intellectual Greuze. It is more rare for a man himself t charities, let us accustom ourselves to feel shrink from every enterprise, first under th satisfied with humble results and small suc- persuasion that he is unprepared, and afte cesses; and here let me make a confession wards because the time is no longer opportun which may be of some possible use to others. Yet there does exist a certain very peculia When a young man, I taught a drawing-class class of highly-gifted, diffident, delicate, u gratuitously, beginning with thirty-six pu- productive minds, which impress those aroui pils, who dwindled gradually to eleven. Soon them with an almost superstitious belief afterwards I gave up the work from dissatis- their possibilities, yet never do anything faction, on account of the meagre attendance. justify that belief. This was very wrong-the eleven were worth | But may it not be doubted whether the minds have productive power of any kind? I ble in their way, but they are really, and not believe that the full extent of Joubert's pro- apparently, sterile. ductive power is displayed in those sentences And why would we have it otherwise? of his which have been preserved, and which When we lament that a man of culture has reveal a genius of the rarest delicacy, but at "done nothing," as we say, we mean that he the same time singularly incapable of sus- has not written books. Is it necessary, is it tained intellectual effort. He said that he desirable, that every cultivated person should could only compose slowly, and with an ex- write books? treme fatigue. He believed, however, that. On the contrary, it seems that a more perthe weakness lay in the instrument alone, in fect intellectual life may be attained by the the composing faculties, and not in the facul- silent student than by authors. The writer ties of thought, for he said that behind his for the public is often so far its slave that he weakness there was strength, as behind the is compelled by necessity or induced by the strength of some others there was weakness. desire for success (since it is humiliating to
In saying this, it is probable that Joubert write unsaleable books as well as unprofitdid not overestimate himself. He had able) to deviate from his true path, to leave strength of a certain kind, or rather he had the subjects that most interest him for other quality; he had distinction, which is a sort of subjects which interest him less, and therestrength in society and in literature. But he fore to acquire knowledge rather as a matter had no productive force, and I do not believe of business than as a labor of love. But the that his unproductiveness was a productive student who never publishes, and does not inness checked by a fastidious taste; I believe tend to publish, may follow his own genius that it was real, that he was not organized for and take the knowledge which belongs to him production.
by natural affinity. Add to this the immense Sainte-Beuve said that a modern philoso-saving of time effected by abstinence from pher was accustomed to distinguish three writing. Whilst the writer is polishing his classes of minds
I periods, and giving hours to the artistic exi1. Those who are at once powerful and del- gencies of mere form, the reader is adding to icate, who excel as they propose, execute his knowledge. Thackeray said that writers what they conceive, and reach the great and were not great readers, because they had not true beautiful-a rare élite amongst mortals. the time.
2. A class of minds especially characterized The most studious Frenchman I ever met by their delicacy, who feel that their idea is with used to say that he so hated the pen as superior to their execution, their intelligence scarcely to resolve to write a letter. He regreater than their talent, even when the tal-minded me of Joubert in this; he often said, ent is very real; they are easily dissatisfied" J'ai horreur de la plume.” Since he had no with themselves, disdain easily won praises, profession his leisure was unlimited, and he and would rather judge, taste, and abstain employed it in educating himself without any from producing, than remain below their con other purpose than this, the highest purpose ception and themselves. Or if they write it of all, to become a cultivated man. The very is by fragments, for themselves only, at long prevalent idea that lives of this kind are failintervals and at rare moments. Their fecun- ures unless they leave some visible achievedity is internal, and known to few.
ment as a testimony and justification of their 3. Lastly, there is a third class of minds labors, is based upon a narrow conception both more powerful and less delicate or difficult to of duty and of utility. Men of this unproducplease, who go on producing and publishing tive class are sure to influence their immedithemselves without being too much dissatis- ate neighborhood by the example of their life. fied with their work.
Isolated as they are too frequently in the provThe majority of our active painters, and inces, in the midst of populations destitute writers, who fill modern exhibitions, and pro- of the higher culture, they often establish the duce the current literature of the day, belong notion of it notwithstanding the contemptuous to the last class, to which we are all greatly estimates of the practical people around them. indebted for the daily bread of literature and A single intellectual life, thus modestly lived art.
through in the obscurity of a country-town, But Sainte-Beuve believed that Joubert be- may leave a tradition and become an enduring longed to the second class, and I suspect that influence. In this, as in all things, let us trust both Sainte-Beuve and many others have the arrangements of Nature. If men are at credited that class with a potential produc- the same time constitutionally studious and tiveness beyond its real endowments. Minds constitutionally unproductive, in must be that of the Joubert class are admirable and valua- ' production is not the only use of study. Joubert was right in keeping silence when he felt most perfect solitude, and even people who no impulses to speak, right also in saying the live in the same house know very little, reallittle that he did say without a superfluous ly, of their intellectual habits. word. His mind is more fully known, and The truth seems to be, first, that the momore influential, than many which are abun- ments of high excitement, of noblest invendantly productive.
tion, are rare, and not to be commanded by the will; but, on the other hand, that in order to make the gift of invention produce its full ef
fect in any department of human effort, vast LETTER V.
labors of preparation are necessary, and these
labors may be pursued as steadily as you like. TO A STUDENT WHO FELT HURRIED AND DRIVEN.
Napoleon I. used to say that battles were won Some intellectual products possible only in excitement-By- / by the sudden flashing of an idea through the
ron's authority on the subject-Can inventive minds work brain of the commander at a certain critical regularly ?-Sir Walter Scott's opinion-Napoleon on the instant
he instant. The capacity for generating this
T nning of victories—The prosaic business of men of genius—"Waiting for inspiration"-Rembrandt's advice to a sudden electric spark was military genius. young painter-Culture necessary to inspiration itself- The spark flashed independently of the will; Byron, Keats, Morris-Men of genius may be regular as
the General could not win that vivid illuminstudents.
ation by labor or by prayer; it came only in In my last letter to you on quiet regularity the brain of genius from the intense anxiety of work, I did not give much consideration to and excitement of the actual conflict. Napoanother matter which, in certain kinds of leon seems always to have counted upon it, work, has to be taken into account, for I pre- always to have believed that when the critiferred to make that the subject of a separate cal instant arrived the wild confusion of the letter. There are certain intellectual products battle-field would be illuminated for him by which are only possible in hours or minutes of that burst of sudden flame. But if Napoleon great cerebral excitement. Byron said that had been ignorant of the prosaic business of when people were surprised to find poets very his profession, to which he attended more much like others in the ordinary intercourse closely than any other commander, what of life, their surprise was due to ignorance of would these moments of supreme clearness this. If people knew, Byron said, that poeti- have availed him, or would they ever have cal production came from an excitement come to him at all? If they had come to him, which from its intensity could only be tempo- they would have revealed only the extent of rary, they would not expect poets to be very his own negligence. Instead of showing him different from other people when not under what to do, they would have made painfully the influence of this excitement. Now, we evident what ought to have been done. But it may take the word “poet,” in this connection, is more probable that these clear momenti in the very largest sense. All men who have would never have occurred to a mind unpre the gift of invention are poets. The inven- pared by study. Clear military inspiration tive ideas come to them at unforeseen mo- never occur to shopkeepers and farmers, a ments, and have to be seized when they come, bright ideas about checkmates occur only t so that the true inventor' works sometimes persons who have studied chess. The prosai with vertiginous rapidity, and afterwards re- business, then, of the man of genius is to ac mains for days or weeks without exercising cumulate that preparatory knowledge with the inventive faculty at all. The question is, out which his genius can never be available can you make an inventive mind work on the and he can do work of this kind as regularl principle of measured and regular advance. as he likes. Is such counsel as that in my former letter The one fatal mistake which is committe applicable to inventors?
habitually by people who have the scarcel Scott said, that although he had known desirable gift of half-genius is “waiting f« many men of ordinary abilities who were ca- inspiration." They pass week after week i pable of perfect regularity in their habits, he a state of indolence, unprofitable alike to tl had never known a man of genius who was mind and the purse, under pretext of waitin so. The popular impression concerning men for intellectual flashes like those which can of genius is very strong in the same sense, to Napoleon on his battle-fields. They oug but it is well not to attach too much impor- to remember the advice given by one of t1 tance to popular impressions concerning men greatest artists of the seventeenth century of genius, for the obvious reason that such a young painter of his acquaintance. “Pra men come very little under popular observa- tise assiduously what you already know, ai tion. When they work it is usually in thel in course of time other things will becor
and prose-The wind more imitable than the stars-The
clear to you.” The inspirations come only to
LETTER VI. the disciplined; the indolent wait for them in rain.
TO AN ARDENT FRIEND WHO TOOK NO REST. If you have genius, therefore, or believe
On some verses of Goethe--Man not constituted like a planet you have, it is admitted that you cannot be
-Matthew Arnold's poem, "Self-dependence"-Poetry perpetually in a state of intense excitement. If you were in that state without ceasing, you stone in Glen Croe-Rest and be thankful. would go mad. You cannot be expected to write poetry in the plodding ox-pace manner
“RAMBLING over the wild moors, with advocated for intellectual work generally in thoughts oftentimes as wild and dreary as my last letter. As for that good old compari- those moors, the young Carlyle, who had son between the hare and the tortoise, it may been cheered through his struggling sadness, be answered for you, simply, that you are not and strengthened for the part he was to play a tortoise, and that what is a most wise pro- in life, by the beauty and the wisdom which cedure for tortoises may be impracticable for Goethe had revealed to him, suddenly conyou. The actual composition of poetry, es-ceived the idea that it would be a pleasant pecially poetry of a fiery kind, like
and a fitting thing if some of the few admirers
in England forwarded to Weimar a trifling "The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece,"
token of their admiration. On reaching home of Byron, is to be done not when the poet Mr. Carlyle at once sketched the design of a will, but when he can, or rather, when he seal to be engraved, the serpent of eternity must.
encircling a star, with the words ohne Hast, But if you are a wise genius you will feel ohne Rast (unhasting, unresting), in allusion how necessary is culture even for work of to the well-known verses-that kind. Byron would not have felt any enthusiasm for the isles of Greece if he had
• Wie das Gestirn,
Ohne Hast not known something of their history. The
Aber ohne Rast verses are an inspiration, but they could
Drehe sich jeder never have occurred to a quite uncultivated
Um die eigne Last.' person, however bright his inspirations. Even alike as
18. Even (Like a star, unhasting, unresting, be each more obviously was the genius of Keats de- one fulfilling his God-given hest.) "* Dendent upon his culture. He did not read! This is said so beautifully. and seems so Greek, but from translations of Greek litera- I wise that it mave
itera: wise, that it may easily settle down into the ture and from the direct study of Greek art I mind as a maxim and rule of life. 'Had we he got the sort of material that he needed. In
been told in plain prose to take no rest, withAnd in our own day Morris has been evi
out the beautiful simile of the star, and withdently a very diligent student of many liter
out the wise restriction about haste, our comatures. What I insist upon is, that we could
mon sense would have rebelled at once; but not have had the real Keats, the real Morris,
as both beauty and wisdom exist together in unless they had prepared themselves by cult-Itheo
the gem-like stanza, our judgment remains ure. We see immediately that the work they silent in charmed acquiescence. have done is their work, specially, that they
meyl Let us ask ourselves, however, about this
Let us asko were specially adapted for it-inspired for it, is
11: stella example, whether man is naturally so if you will. But how evident it is that the
constituted as to be able to imitate it. A inspiration could never have produced the
planet moves without haste, because it is incawork, or anything like it, without labor in
pable of excitement; and without rest, because the accumulation of material !
it is incapable of fatigue. A planet makes Now, although men of genius cannot be
no effort, and encounters no friction or resistregularly progressive in actual production,
in, ance of any kind. Man is so constituted as to cannot write so many verses a day, regularly,
feel frequently the stimulus of excitement, as you may spin yarn, they can be very regu
which immediately translates itself either into lar as students, and some of the best of them
actual acceleration or into the desire for accelhave been quite remarkable for unflinching
eration-a desire which cannot be restrained steadiness of application in that way. The
without an effort; and whatever man under: great principle recommended by Mr. Galton,
takes to do he encounters friction and resistof not looking forward eagerly to the end of
ance, which, for him, always sooner or later your journey, but interesting yourself chiefly
inevitably induce fatigue. Man is neither in the progress of it, is as applicable to the
constituted like a star nor situated like a star, studies of men of genius as to those of more ordinary persons.
* Lewes's “Life of Goethe," Book vil. chap. 8.