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and therefore it is not possible for him to exist wise men try to keep as the best legacy of as 'stars exist.
youth. You will object to this criticism that it Let your rest be perfect in its season, like handles a delicate little poem very roughly, the rest of waters that are still. If you will and you may tell me that I am unfit to re- have a model for your living, take neither ceive the wisdom of the poets, which is al- | the stars, for they fly without ceasing, nor ways uttered with a touch of Oriental exag- the ocean that ebbs and flows, nor the river geration. Certainly Goethe could never that cannot stay, but rather let your life be mean that a man should kill himself by labors like that of the summer air, which has times literally incessant. Goethe's own life is the of noble energy and times of perfect peace. best elucidation of his true meaning. The It fills the sails of ships upon the sea, and the example of the star was held up to us to be miller thanks it on the breezy uplands; it followed only within the limits of our human works generously for the health and wealth nature, as a Christian points to the example of all men, yet it claims its hours of rest. "I of Christ. In the same spirit Matthew Ar- have pushed the fleet, I have turned the mill, nold wrote his noble poem “Self-dependence," |I have refreshed the city, and now, though in which he tells us to live like the stars and the captain may walk impatiently on the the sea :
quarter-deck, and the miller swear, and the
city stink, I will stir no more until it pleases “Ah, once more," I cried, “ye stars, ye waters,
me." On my heart your mighty charm renew; Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
You have learned many things, my friend, Feel my soul becoming vast like you."
| but one thing you have not learned—the art
of resting. That stone in Glen Croe ought to From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven, have impressed its lesson on the mind of
Over the lit sea's unquiet way,
many a traveller, long before Earl Russell , “Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they. gave it a newspaper celebrity. Have we not
rested there together, you and I, a little in “Unaffrighted by the silence round them
advance of the coach, which the weary horses Undistracted by the sights they see, These demand not that the things without them
were still slowly dragging up the tedious hill? Yield them love, amusement, sympathy."
And as we sat on the turf, and looked down
the misty glen, did we not read the lesson The true intention of poetical teachings like there engraven? How good and human the these is in the influence they have over the idea was, the idea of setting up that graven feelings. If a star makes me steadier in my stone in the wilderness; how full of sympathy labor, less of a victim to vain agitation, in is that inscription for all the weakness and consequence of Goethe's verses; if the stars weariness of humanity! Once, in the ardor and the sea together renew more fully their of youth, there shone before me a golden star mighty charm upon my heart because those in heaven, and on the deep azure around it stanzas of Arnold have fixed themselves in “Ohne Hast, ohne Rast," in letters of steady my memory, the poets have done their work. flame; but now I see more frequently a plain But the more positive prosateur has his work little stone set up in the earth, with the into do also, and you, as it seems to me, need scription, “Rest, and be thankful !”. this positive help of prose.
| Is not the stone just a little like a grave You are living a great deal too much like a stone, my friend? Perhaps it is. But if we star, and not enough like a human being. take rest when we require it during life, we You do not hasten often, but you never rest, shall not need the grave's rest quite so soon. except when Nature mercifully prostrates you in irresistible sleep. Like the stars and the sea in Arnold's poem, you do not ask sur
LETTER VII. rounding things to yield you love, amusement, sympathy. The stars and the sea can TO AN ARDENT FRIEND WHO TOOK NO REST. do without these refreshments of the brain and heart, but you cannot. Rest is necessary
The regret for lost time often a needless one--Tillier's doc
trine about flânerie - How much is gained in idle to recruit your intellectual forces; sympathy hours-Sainte-Beuve's conviction that whatever he did he is necessary to prevent your whole nature studied the infinite book of the world and of life-Harness from stiffening like a rotifer without moist
-Free play of the mind necessary-The freedom of a
grain of desert-sand--The freedom of the wild bee.. ure; love is necessary to make life beautiful for you, as the plumage of certain birds be-/ If we asked any intellectual workman comes splendid when they pair; and without what he would do if his life were to be lived amusement you will lose the gayety which over again, I believe the answer, whatever its form, would amount ultimately to this :| idleness, perhaps by a deeper feeling of the “I would economize my time better." Very principle that all comes to the same, at the likely if the opportunity were granted him conclusion that whatever I do or do not, he would do nothing of the sort; very likely working in the study at continuous labor, he would waste his time in ways more au- scattering myself in articles, spreading mythorized by custom, yet waste it just as ex- self about in society, giving my time away to travagantly as he had done after his own troublesome callers, to poor people, to rendezoriginal fashion; but it always seems to us as vous, in the street, no matter to whom and to if we could use the time better if we had it what, I cease not to do one and the same over again.
thing, to read one and the same book, the inIt seems to me in looking back over the last finite book of the world and of life, that no thirty years, that the only time really wasted one ever finishes, in which the wisest read has been that spent in laborious obedience farthest; I read it then at all the pages which to some external authority. It may be a present themselves, in broken fragments, dangerous doctrine which Claude Tillier ex- backwards, what matters it? I never cease pressed in an immortal sentence, but danger-going on. The greater the medley, the more ous or not, it is full of intellectual truth: “Le frequent the interruption, the more I get on temps le mieux employé est celui que l'on with this book in which one is never beyond perd."* If what we are accustomed to con- the middle; but the profit is to have had it sider lost time could be removed, as to its open before one at all sorts of different effects at least, from the sum of our existence, 1 pages." it is certain that we should suffer from a A distinguished author wrote to another great intellectual impoverishment. All the author less distinguished: “You have gone best knowledge of mankind, to begin with, is through a good deal of really vigorous study, acquired in hours which hard-working people but have not been in harness yet." By harness consider lost hours-in hours, that is, of he meant discipline settled beforehand like milpleasure and recreation. Deduct all that we itary drill. Now, the advantages of drill are have learnt about men in times of recreation, evident and very generally recognized, but in clubs and smoking-rooms, on the hunting- the advantages of intellectual flanerie are not field, on the cricket-ground, on the deck of so generally recognized. For the work of the yacht, on the box of the drag or the dog. the intellect to be clear and healthy, a great cart, would the residue be worth very much? deal of free play of the mind is absolutely would it not be a mere heap of dry bones necessary. Harness is good for an hour or without any warm flesh to cover them? two at a time, but the finest intellects have Even the education of most of us, such as it never lived in harness. In reading any book is, has been in a great measure acquired out that has much vitality you are sure to meet of school, as it were; I mean outside of the with many allusions and illustrations which acknowledged duties of our more serious ex- the author hit upon, not when he was in haristence. Few Englishmen past forty have ness, but out at grass. Harness trains us to studied English literature either as a college the systematic performance of our work, and exercise or a professional preparation; they increases our practical strength by regulated have read it privately, as an amusement. exercise, but it does not supply everything Few Englishmen past forty have studied that is necessary to the perfect development modern languages, or science, or the fine arts, of the mind. The truth is, that we need both from any obedience to duty, but merely from the discipline of harness and the abundant taste and inclination. And even if we stud- nourishment of the free pasture. Yet may ied these things formally, as young men not our freedom be the profitless, choiceless, often do at the present day, it is not from the freedom of a grain of desert-sand, carried formal study that we should get the perfume hither and thither by the wind, gaining nothof the language or the art, but from idle ing and improving nothing, so that it does hours in foreign lands and galleries. It is su- not signify where it was carried yesterday or perfluous to recommend idleness to the unin- where it may fall to-morrow, but rather the tellectual, but the intellectual too often un- | liberty of the wild bee, whose coming and godervalue it. The laborious intellect con- ing are ordered by no master, nor fixed by tracts a habit of strenuousness which is some any premeditated regulation, yet which misses times a hindrance to its best activity.
no opportunity of increase, and comes home "I have arrived,” said Sainte-Beuve, “per- laden in the twilight. Who knows where he haps by way of secretly excusing my own has wandered; who can tell over what banks
and streams the hum of his wings has sounded ? * The best employed time is that which one loses. | Is anything in nature freer than he is; can anything account better for a rational use of not from lack of interest, but from want of freedom? Would he do his work better if time. You may open some old chamber of tiny harness were ingeniously contrived for the memory that has been dark and disused him? Where then would be the golden honey, for many a year; you may clear the cobwebs and where the waxen cells?
away, and let the fresh light in, and make it habitable once again.
Against these gains, of which some to a man
of your industry are certain, and may be LETTER VIII.
counted upon, what must be our estimate of TO A FRIEND (HIGHLY CULTIVATED) WHO CON
the amount of sacrifice or loss? It is clear to GRATULATED HIMSELF ON HAVING ENTIRELY
both of us that much of what we read in the ABANDONED THE HABIT OF READING NEWS
newspapers is useless to our culture. A large PAPERS.
proportion of newspaper-writing is occupied
with speculation on what is likely to happen Advantages in economy of time-Much of what we read in in the course of a few months; therefore, by
newspapers is useless to our culture-The too great im- waiting until the time is past. we know the portance which they attach to novelty-Distortion by party spirit-An instance of false presentation event without having wasted time in speculaGains to serenity by abstinence from newspapers-News- tions which could not effect it. Another rathpapers keep up our daily interest in each other-The
ne er considerable fraction of newspaper matter French peasantry-The newspaper-reading AmericansAn instance of total abstinence from newspapers --Au- consists of small events which have interest guste Comte-A suggestion of Emerson's—The work of for the day, owing to their novelty, but which newspaper correspondents—War correspondents--Mr. I will not have tho alich
r. will not have the slightest permanent imporStanley-M. Erdan, of the Temps.
tance. The whole press of a newspaper-readYOUR abstinence from newspaper reading is ing country, like England or America, may not anew experiment in itself, though it is be actively engaged during the space of a new in reference to your particular case, and week or a fortnight in discussing some inci. I await its effects with interest. I shall be dent which everybody will have forgotten in curious to observe the consequences, to an in- six months; and besides these sensational intellect constituted as yours is, of that total cidents, there are hundreds of less notorious cutting off from the public interests of your ones, often fictitious, inserted simply for the own century which an abstinence from news- temporary amusement of the reader. The papers implies. It is clear that, whatever the greatest evil of newspapers, in their effect on loss may be, you have a definite gain to set the intellectual life, is the enormous imporagainst it. The time which you have hith- tance which they are obliged to attach to erto given to newspapers, and which may be mere novelty. From the intellectual point of roughly estimated at about five hundred view, it is of no consequence whether a hours a year, is henceforth a valuable time- thought occurred twenty-two centuries ago to income to be applied to whatever purposes Aristotle or yesterday evening to Mr. Charles your best wisdom may select. When an in- Darwin, and it is one of the distinctive marks tellectual person has contrived by the force of of the truly intellectual to be able to take a one simple resolution to effect 80 fine an hearty interest in all truth, independently of economy as this, it is natural that he should the date of its discovery. The emphasis given congratulate himself. Your feelings must be by newspapers to novelty exhibits things in like those of an able finance minister who has wrong relations, as the lantern shows you what found means of closing a great leak in the is nearest at the cost of making the general treasury--if any economy possible in the landscape appear darker oy the contrast. Befinances of a State could ever relatively equal sides this exhibition of things in wrong relathat splendid stroke of time-thrift which your tions, there is a positive distortion & 'ising from force of will has enabled you to effect. In the unscrupulousness of party, a distortion those five hundred hours, which are now which extends far beyond the limits of the your own, you may acquire a science or ob- empire. tain a more perfect command over one of the An essay might be written on the dislanguages which you have studied. Some de- tortion of English affairs in the French partment of your intellectual labors which press, or of French affairs in the English has hitherto been unsatisfactory to you, be- press, by writers who are as strongly partisan cause it was too imperfectly cultivated, may in another country as in their own. “It is henceforth be as orderly and as fruitful as a such a grand thing," wrote an English Paris well-kept garden. You may become thorough- correspondent in 1870, "for Adolphus Thiers, ly conversant with the works of more than son of a poor laborer of Aix, and in early life one great author whom you have neglected, I a simple journalist, to be at the head of the Government of France." This is a fair speci-| --not political philosophy, but to the every. men of the kind of false presentation which is day work of politicians—that intellectual cultso common in party journalism. The news- ure is thrown into the background, and the paper from which I have quoted it was strong- election of a single member of Parliament is ly opposed to Thiers, being in fact one of the made to seem of greater national importance principal organs of the English Bonapartists. than the birth of a powerful idea. And yet, It is not true that Thiers was the son of a notwithstanding all these considerations, door laborer of Aix. His father was a work-which are serious indeed for the intellectual, man of Marseilles, his mother belonging to a I believe that your resolution is unwise, and family in which neither wealth nor culture that you will find it to be untenable. One had been rare, and his mother's relatives had momentous reason more than counterbalances him educated at the Lycée. The art of the all these considerations put together. Newsjournalist in bringing together the two ex-papers are to the whole civilized world what tremes of a career remarkable for its steady the daily house-talk is to the members of a ascent had for its object to produce the idea of household; they keep up our daily interest in incongruity, of sudden and unsuitable eleva- each other, they save us from the evils of isotion. Not only M. Thiers, however, but every lation. To live as a member of the great human being starts from a very small begin- white race of men, the race that has filled ning, since every man begins life as a baby. Europe and America, and colonized or conIt is a great rise for one baby to the Presi- quered whatever other territories it has been dency of the French Republic; it was also a pleased to occupy, to share from day to day great rise for other babies who have attained its cares, its thoughts, its aspirations, it is the premiership of England. The question is, necessary that every man should read his not what Thiers may have been seventy years daily newspaper. Why are the French peasago, but what he was immediately before his ants so bewildered and at sea, so out of place in acceptance of the highest office of the State. the modern world? It is because they never He was the most trusted and the most experi- read a newspaper. And why are the inhabienced citizen, so that the last step in his tants of the United States, though scattered career was as natural as the elevation of over a territory fourteen times the area of Reynolds to the presidency of the Acad- France, so much more capable of concerted emy.
political action, so much more alive and modIt is difficult for any one who cares for jus- ern, so much more interested in new discovtice to read party journals without frequent eries of all kinds and capable of selecting and irritation, and it does not signify which side utilizing the best of them? It is because the the newspaper takes. Men are so unf'ir in newspaper penetrates everywhere; and even controversy that we best preserve the seren- | the lonely dweller on the prairie or in the ity of the intellect by studiously avoiding all forest is not intellectually isolated from the literature that has a controversial tone. By great currents of public life which flow your new rule of abstinence from newspapers through the telegraph and the press. you will no doubt gain almost as much in The experiment of doing without newspaserenity as in time. To the ordinary news-pers has been tried by a whole class, the paper reader there is little loss of serenity, be- French peasantry, with the consequences that cause he reads only the newspaper that he we know, and it has also from time to time agrees with, and however unfair it is, he is been tried by single individuals belonging to pleased by its unfairness. But the highest more enlightened sections of society. Let us and best culture makes us disapprove of un- take one instance, and let us note what appear fairness on our own side of the question also. to have been the effects of this abstinence. We are pained by it; we feel humiliated by Auguste Comte abstained from newspapers it; we lament its persistence and its perver- as a teetotaller abstains from spirituous liqsity.
uors. Now, Auguste Comte possessed a gift I have said nearly all that has to be said in of nature which, though common in minor favor of your rule of abstinence. I have degrees, is in the degree in which he possessed granted that the newspapers cost us much it rarer than enormous diamonds. That gift tine, which, if employed for great intellect was the power of dealing with abstract intelnal purposes, would carry us very far; that lectual conceptions, and living amidst them they give disproportionate views of things by always, as the practical mind lives in and the emphasis they give to novelty, and false deals with material things. And it happened views by the unfairness which belongs to in Comte's case, as it usually does happen in party. I might have added that newspaper cases of very peculiar endowment, that the writers give such a preponderance to politics gift was accompanied by the instincts necessary to its perfect development and to its pres- the standard authors?” To this suggestion of ervation. Comte instinctively avoided the Emerson's it may be answered that the loss conversation of ordinary people, because he would be greater than the gain. The writers felt it to be injurious to the perfect exercise of of Queen Anne's time could educate an Enghis faculty, and for the same reason he would lishman of Queen Anne's time, but they can not read newspapers. In imposing upon him- only partially educate an Englishman of Queen self these privations he acted like a very emi- Victoria's time. The mind is like a merchant's nent living etcher, who, having the gift of an ledger, it requires to be continually posted up extraordinary delicacy of hand, preserves it to the latest date. Even the last telegram by abstinence from everything that may effeci may have upset some venerable theory that the steadiness of the nerves. There is a cer has been received as infallible for ages. tain difference, however, between the two In times when great historical events are cases which I am anxious to accentuate. The passing before our eyes, the journalist is to etcher runs no risk of any kind by his rule of future historians what the African traveller abstinence. He refrains from several common is to the map-makers. His work is neither indulgences, but he denies himself nothing complete nor orderly, but it is the fresh record that is necessary to health. I may even go of an eye-witness, and enables us to become farther, and say that the rules which he ob- ourselves spectators of the mighty drama of serves for the sake of perfection in his art, the world. Never was this service so well might be observed with advantage by many rendered as it is now, by correspondents who who are not artists, for the sake of their own achieve heroic feats of bodily and mental tranquillity, without the loss of anything but prowess, exposing themselves to the greatest pleasure. The rules which Comte made for dangers, and writing much and well in cir himself involved, on the other hand, a great cumstances the most unfavorable to literary peril. In detaching himself so completely composition. How vividly the English war from the interests and ways of thinking of correspondents brought before us the reality ordinary men, he elaborated, indeed, the con- of the great conflict between Germany and ceptions of the positive philosophy, but arrived France!. What a romantic achievement, afterwards at a peculiar kind of intellectual worthy to be sung in heroic verse, was the decadence from which it is possible-probable finding of Livingstone by Stanley! Not less even—that the rough common sense of the interesting have been the admirable series of newspapers might have preserved him. They letters by M. Erdan in the Temps, in which, would have saved him, I seriously believe, with the firmness of a master-hand, he has from that mysticism which led to the inven- painted from the life, week after week, year tion of a religion far surpassing in unreasona- after year, the decline and fall of the temporal bleness the least rational of the creeds of tra- power of the Papacy. I cannot think that dition. It is scarcely imaginable, except on any page of Roman history is better worth the supposition of actual insanity, that any reading than his letters, more interesting, inregular reader of the Times, the Temps, the structive, lively, or authentic. Yet with your Daily News, and the Saturday Review, should contempt for newspapers you would lose all believe the human race to be capable of receiv- this profitable entertainment, and seek instead ing as the religion of its maturity the Comtist of it the accounts of former epochs not half so Trinity and the Comtist Virgin Mother. A interesting as this fall of the temporal power, Trinity consisting of the Great Being (or hu- accounts written in most cases by men in limanity), the Great Fetish (or the earth), and braries who had not seen the sovereigns they the Great Midst (or space); a hope for the hu- wrote about, nor talked with the people whose man race (how unphysiological!) that women condition they attempted to describe. You might ultimately arrive at maternity inde- have a respect for these accounts because they pendently of virile help,—these are concep-are printed in books, and bound in leather tions so remote, not only from the habits of and entitled “history," whilst you despise th modern thought, but (what is more impor- direct observation of a man like Erdan, be tant) from its tendencies, that they could not cause he is only a journalist, and his letter occur to a mind in regular communication are published in a newspaper. Is there no with its contemporaries.