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from the multitude of fashionable pretenders. | iards and on the moors is evidently declinI know another man who can draw; there ing, and I cannot ride or drive so well as felare not many men, even amongst artists, lows who do very little else. In fact I am bewho can draw soundly; yet in fashionable so-coming an old muff, and all I have to show ciety he does not get the serious sort of re- on the other side is a degree of scholarship spect which he deserves, because fashionable which only six men in Europe can appreciate, people believe that drawing is an accomplish- and a speciality in natural science in which ment generally attainable by young ladies my little discoveries are sure to be either anand communicable by governesses. I have ticipated or left behind.” no wish to insinuate that Society is wrong, in The truth is, that to succeed well in fashionrequiring a certain pretence to education in able society the higher intellectual attainvarious subjects, and a certain affectation of ments are not so useful as distinguished skill interest in masterpieces, for these pretences in those amusements which are the real busiand affectations do serve to deliver it from of the fashionable world. The three things the darkness of a quite absolute ignorance. which tell best in your favor amongst young A society of fashionable people who think it gentlemen are to be an excellent shot, to ride necessary to be able to talk superficially well to hounds, and to play billiards with about the labors of men really belonging to great skill. I wish to say nothing against any the intellectual class, is always sure to be of these accomplishments, having an espemuch better informed than a Society such as cially hearty admiration and respect for all that of the French peasantry, for example, good horsemen, and considering the game of where nobody is expected to know anything. billiards the most perfectly beautiful of games; It is well for Society itself that it should pro- still, the fact remains that to do these things fess a deep respect for classical learning, for as well as some young gentlemen do them, we the great modern poets and painters, for sci- must devote the time which they devote, and entific discoverers, even though the majority | if we regularly give nine hours a day to gravof its members do not seriously care abouter occupations, pray, how and where are we them. The pretension itself requires a cer- to find it? tain degree of knowledge, as gilding requires A certain quantity of gold. The evil effects of these affectations may be
LETTER III. summed up in a sentence. They diminish che anparent value of the realities which they TO A YOUNG GENTLEMAN WHO LIVED MUCH IN emitate, and they tend to weaken our enthusi
FASHIONABLE SOCIETY. asm for those great realities, and our ardor in he pursuit of them. The impression which
Some exceptional men may live alternately in different worlds
-Instances-Differences between the fashionable and the rashionable society produces upon a student
intellectual spirit--Men sometimes made unfashionable by who has strength enough to resist it, is a special natural gifts--Sometimes by trifling external cirpainful sense of isolation in his earnest work. cumstances-Anecdote of Ampère-He did not shine in so
ciety–His wife's anxieties about his material wants-Ap if he goes back to the work with courage un
parent contrast between Ampère and Oliver Goldsmith diminished, he still clearly realizes-what it would be better for him not to realize quite You ask me why there should be any funso clearly—the uselessness of going beyond damental incompatibility between the fashfashionable standards, if he aims at social ionable and the intellectual lives. It seems to success. And there iş still another thing to be you that the two might possibly be reconciled, said which concerns you just now very par- and you mention instances of men who atticularly. Whoever leads the intellectual life tained intellectual distinction without desertin earnest is sure on some points to fail in ing the fashionable world. strict obedience to the exigencies of fashion- Yes, there have been a few examples of men able life, so that, if fashionable successes are endowed with that overflow of energy which still dear to him, he will be constantly tempt- permits the most opposite pursuits, and enaed to make some such reflections as the fol- | bles its possessors to live, apparently, in two lowing:-“ Here am I, giving years and years worlds between which there is not any natof labor to a pursuit which brings no external ural affinity. A famous French novelist once reward, when half as much work would keep took the trouble to elaborate the portrait of a me abreast of the society I live with, in every- lady who passed one half of her time in virtue thing it really cares about. I know quite and churches, whilst she employed the other well all that my learning is costing me. half in the wildest adventures. In real life Other men outshine me easily in social pleas- I may allude to a distinguished English en. ures and accomplishments. My skill at bill-graver, who spent a fortnight over his plate
and a fortnight in some fashionable watering-| were so profoundly ignorant that he habitplace, alternately, and who found this distribu- ually kept out of their way. He, on his part, tion of his time not unfavorable to the elasticity neglected scholarship and literature and all of his mind. Many hard-working Londoners, that “artistry of life," as Mr. Robert Lytton who fairly deserve to be considered intellect- calls it, in which fashionable society excels. ual men, pass their days in professional labor Men are frequently driven into unfashionable and their evenings in fashionable society. existence by the very force and vigor of their But in all instances of this kind the profes- own intellectual gifts, and sometimes by exsional work is serious enough, and regular ternal circumstances, apparently most trifling, enough, to give a very substantial basis to the yet of infinite influence on human destiny. life, so that the times of recreation are kept There is a good instance of this in a letter from daily subordinate by the very necessity of cir- Ampère to his young wife, that “Julie" who cumstances. If you had a profession, and was lost to him so soon. “I went to dine were obliged to follow it in earnest six or eight yesterday at Madame Beauregard's with hours a day, the more Society amused you, hands blackened by a harmless drug which the better. The danger in your case is that stains the skin for three or four days. She deyour whole existence may take a fashionable clared that it looked like manure, and left tone.
the table, saying that she would dine when The esprit or tone of fashion differs from the I was at a distance. I promised not to reintellectual tone in ways which I will attempt turn there before my hands were white. Of to define. Fashion is nothing more than the course I shall never enter the house again." temporary custom of rich and idle people who Here we have an instance of a man of scimake it their principal business to study the ence who has temporarily disqualified himexternal elegance of life. This custom inces- self for polite society by an experiment in the santly changes. If your habits of mind and pursuit of knowledge. What do you think life change with it you are a fashionable per- of the vulgarity of Madame Beauregard? To son, but if your habits of mind and life either me it appears the perfect type of that pre-ocremain permanently fixed or follow some law cupation about appearances which blinds the of your own individual nature, then you are genteel vulgar to the true nobility of life. outside of fashion. The intellectual spirit is Were not Ampère's stained hands nobler remarkable for its independence of custom, than many white ones? It is not necessary and therefore on many occasions it will clash for every intellectual worker to blacken his with the fashionable spirit. It does so most fingers with chemicals, but a kind of rust frequently in the choice of pursuits, and in very frequently comes over him which ought the proportionate importance which the indi- to be as readily forgiven, yet rarely is forvidual student will (in his own case) assign to given. “In his relations with the world," his pursuits. The regulations of fashionable writes the biographer of Ampère, “the ar life have fixed, at the least temporarily, the thority of superiority disappeared. To this degree of time and attention which a fashion- the course of years brought no alternative. able person may devote to this thing or that. Ampère become celebrated, laden with honorThe intellectual spirit ignores these regula-able distinctions, the great Ampère!'outside tions, and devotes its possessor, or more ac- the speculations of the intellect, was hesitatcurately its possessed, to the intellectual spe- ing and timid again, disquieted and troubled, ciality for which he has most aptitude, often and more disposed to accord his confidence leaving him ignorant of what fashion has de- to others than to himself.” cided to be essential. After living the intel- Intellectual pursuits did not qualify Ampère, lectual life for several years he will know too they do not qualify any one, for success in much of one thing and too little of some other fashionable society. To succeed in the world things to be in conformity with the fashion- you ought to be of the world, so as to share able idea!. For example, the fashionable ideal the things which interest it without too wide of a gentleman requires classical scholarship, a deviation from the prevalent current of but it is so difficult for artists and men of sci- your thoughts. Its passing interests, its temence to be classical scholars also that in this porary customs, its transient phases of sentirespect they are likely to fall short. I knew ment and opinion, ought to be for the moment a man who became unfashionable because he your own interests, your own feelings and had a genius for mechanics. He was always opinions. A mind absorbed as Ampère's was about steam-engines, and, though a gentleman in the contemplation and elucidation of the by birth, associated from choice with men unchangeable laws of nature, is too much who understood the science that chiefly inter- fixed upon the permanent to adapt itself ested him, of which all fashionable people naturally to these ever-varying estimates. He did not easily speak the world's lighter A splendid contrast, as to tailoring, was language, he could not move with its mobili- our own dear Oliver Goldsmith, who disty. Such men forget even what they eat and played himself in those wonderful velvet what they put on; Ampère's young wife was coats and satin small-clothes from Mr. Filin constant anxiety, whilst the pair were by's, which are more famous than the finest separated by the severity of their fate, as garments ever worn by prince or peer. Who to the sufficiency of his diet and the de- does not remember that bloom-colored coat cency of his appearance. One day she writes which the ablest painters have studiously imto him to mind not to go out in his shabby old mortalized, made by John Filby, at the Harcoat, and in the same letter she entreats him row, in Water Lane (best advertised of tailto purchase a bottle of wine, so that when he ors!), and that charming blue velvet suit, took no milk or broth he would find it, and which Mr. Filby was never paid for? Surely when it was all drunk she tells him to buy a poet so splendid was fit for the career of another bottle. Afterwards she asks him fashion! No, Oliver Goldsmith's velvet and whether he makes a good fire, and if he has lace were the expression of a-deep and painany chairs in his room. In another letter she ful sense of personal unfitness. They were inquires if his bed is comfortable, and in the fine frame which is intended to pass off another she tells him to mind about his acids, an awkward and imperfect picture. There for he has burnt holes in his blue stockings. was a quieter dignity in Johnson's threadbare Again, she begs him to try to have a passably sleeves. Johnson, the most influential though decent appearance, because that will give not the most elegant intellect of his time, is pleasure to his poor wife. He answers, to grander in his neglect of fashion than Goldtranquillize her, that he does not burn his smith in his ruinous subservience. And if it things now, and that he makes chemical ex- were permitted to me to speak of two or periments only in his old breeches with his three great geniuses who adorn the age in gray coat and his waistcoat of greenish velvet. which we ourselves are living, I might add But one day he is forced to confess that she that they seem to follow the example of the must send him new trousers if he is to ap- author of “Rasselas" rather than that of Mr. pear before MM. Delambre and Villars. He Filby's illustrious customer. They remind “ does not know what to do," his best breeches me of a good old squire who, from a fine senstill smell of turpentine, and, having wished timent of duty, permitted the village artist to put on trousers to go to the Society of Emu- to do his worst upon him, and incurred therelation, he saw the hole which Barrat fancied by this withering observation from his methe had mended become bigger than ever, so ropolitan tailor: “You are covered, sir, but that it showed the piece of different cloth you are not dressed !” which he had sown under it. He adds that his wife will be afraid that he will spoil his “ beau pantalon,” but he promises to send it back to her as clean as when he received it.
LETTER IV. How different is all this from that watchful care about externals which marks the man of
TO A YOUNG GENTLEMAN WHO LIVED MUCH IN
FASHIONABLE SOCIETY. fashion! Ampère was quite a young man then, still almost a bridegroom, yet he is al- Test of professions--Mobility of fashionable taste--Practical ready so absorbed in the intellectual life as to service of an external deference to culture--Incompati
bility between fashionable and intellectual lives. What forget appearances utterly, except when Ju
each has to offer. lie, with feminine watchfulness, writes to recall them to his mind. I am not defending YOUR polite, almost diplomatic answer to or advocating this carelessness. It is better my letter about fashionable society may be to be neat and tidy than to go in holes and not unfairly concentrated into some such parpatches; but I desire to insist upon the radi- agraph as the following: cal difference between the fashionable spirit “What grounds have I for concluding that and the intellectual spirit. And this differ- the professed tastes and opinions of Society ence, which shows itself in these external are in any degree insincere? May not society things, is not less evident in the clothing or be quite sincere in the preferences which it preparation of the mind. Ampère's intellect, professes, and are not the preferences them great and noble as it was, could scarcely selves almost always creditable to the good be considered more suitable for le grand taste and really advanced culture of the So monde than the breeches that smelt of tur- ciety which I suspect of a certain degree of pentine, or the trousers made ragged by affectation?” aquafortis.
| This is the sense of your letter, and in reply to it I give you a simple but sure test. Is the (of finding ready to hand certain customs professed opinion carried out in practice, which are favorable to its well-being. So it when there are fair opportunities for practice? is, though in quite a different direction, with
Let us go so far as to examine a particular the esteem which Society professes for intelinstance. Your friends profess to appreciate lectual pursuits. It is an esteem in great part classical literature. Do they read it? Or, on merely nominal, as fashionable Christianity is the other hand, do they confine themselves nominal, and still it helps and favors the early to believing that it is a good thing for other development of the genuine faculty where it people to read it?
exists. It is certainly a great help to us that When I was a schoolboy, people told me fashionable society, which has such a trementhat the classical authors of antiquity were dous, such an almost irresistible power for eminently useful, and indeed absolutely nec- good or evil, does not openly discourage our essary to the culture of the human mind, pursuits, but on the contrary regards them but I perceived that they did not read them. with great external deferenoe and respect. So I have heard many people express great The recognition which Society has given to respect for art and science, only they did not artists has been wanting in frankness and in go so far as to master any department of art promptitude, though even in this case much or science.
may be said to excuse a sort of hesitation If you will apply this test to the professions rather than refusal which was attributable to of what is especially called fashionable society the strangeness and novelty of the artistic it is probable that you will arrive at the con-caste in England; but Society has far more clusions of the minority, which I have endeav- than a generation professed a respect for literored to express. You will find that the fash- ature and erudition which has helped those ionable world remains very contentedly out- two branches of culture more effectually than side the true working intellectual life, and great subsidies of money. The exact truth does not really share either its labors or its seems to be that Society is sincere in approvaspirations.
ing our devotion to these pursuits, but is not Another kind of evidence, which tells in the yet sufficiently interested in them to apprecisame direction, is the mobility of fashionable ate them otherwise than from the outside, just taste. At one time some studies are fash- as a father and mother applaud their boys for ionable, at another time these are neglected reading Thucydides, yet do not read him and others have taken their place. You will themselves, either in the original or in a transnot find this fickleness in the true intellectual lation. world, which steadily pursues all its various All that I care to insist upon is that there studies, and keeps them well abreast, century is a degree of incompatibility between the after century.
fashionable and the intellectual lives which If I insist upon this distinction with refer- makes it necessary, at a certain time, to ence to you, do not accuse me of hostility even choose one or the other as our own. There is to fashion itself. Fashion is one of the great no hostility, there need not be any uncharitDivine institutions of human society, and the able feeling on one side or the other, but there best philosophy rebels against none of the au- must be a resolute choice between the two. thorities that be, but studies and endeavors to If you decide for the intellectual life, you will explain them. The external deference which incur a definite loss to set against your gain. Society yields to culture is practically of great Your existence may have calmer and proservice, although (I repeat the epithet) it is founder satisfactions, but it will be less amusexternal. The sort of good effect is in the in- ing, and even in an appreciable degree less tellectual sphere what the good effect of a gen- human ; less in harmony, I mean, with the pral religious profession is in the moral sphere. common instincts and feelings of humanity. All fashionable society goes to church. Fash- For the fashionable world, although decorationable religion differs from the religion of ed by habits of expense, has enjoyment for Peter and Paul as fashionable science differs its object, and arrives at enjoyment by those from that of Humboldt and Arago, yet, not-methods which the experience of generations withstanding this difference, the profession of has proved to be most efficacious. Variety religion is useful to Society as some restraint, of amusement, frequent change of scenery at least during one day out of seven, upon its and society, healthy exercise, pleasant occuinveterate tendency to live exclusively for its pation of the mind without fatigue-these amusement. And if any soul happens to things do indeed make existence agreeable to come into existence in the fashionable world human nature, and the science of living agreewhich has the genuine religious nature, that ably is better understood in the fashionable nature has a chance of developing itself, and society of England than by laborious students and savans. The life led by that society is willing to render you the most efficient intel. the true heaven of the natural man, who lectual help, and you miss this help by likes to have frequent feasts and a hearty restricting yourself exclusively to books. appetite, who enjoys the varying spectacle Nothing can replace the conversation of livof wealth, and splendor, and pleasure, who ing men and women; not even the richest loves to watch, from the Olympus of his per- literature can replace it. sonal ease, the curious results of labor in Many years ago I was thrown by accident which he takes no part, the interesting inge- amongst a certain society of Englishmen who, nuity of the toiling world below. In ex- when they were all together, never talked change for these varied pleasures of the spec- about anything worth talking about. Their tator the intellectual life can offer you but general conversations were absolutely empty one satisfaction, for all its promises are re- and null, and I concluded, as young men so ducible simply to this, that you shall come at easily conclude, that those twenty or thirty last, after infinite labor, into contact with gentlemen had not half a dozen ideas amongst some great reality-that you shall know, and them. A little reflection might have reminddo, in such sort that you will feel yourself on ed me that my own talk was no better than firm ground and be recognized-probably not theirs, and consequently that there might be much applauded, but yet recognized-as a others in the company who also knew more fellow-laborer by other knowers and doers, and thought more than they expressed. I Before you come to this, most of your present found out, by accident, after awhile, that accomplishments will be abandoned by your- some of these men had more than common self as unsatisfactory and insufficient, but one culture in various directions; one or two had or two of them will be turned to better ac- travelled far, and brought home the results of count, and will give you after many years a much observation; one or two had read tranquil self-respect, and, what is still rarer largely, and with profit; more than one had and better, a very deep and earnest reverence studied a science; five or six had seen a great for the greatness which is above you. Severed deal of the world. It was a youthful mistake from the vanities of the Illusory, you will live to conclude that, because their general conwith the realities of knowledge, as one who versation was very dull, the men were dull has quitted the painted scenery of the theatre individually. The general conversations of to listen by the eternal ocean or gaze at the English society are dull; it is a national granite hills.
characteristic. But the men themselves are individually often very well informed, and quite capable of imparting their information
to a single interested listener. The art is to LETTER V.
be that listener. Englishmen have the great
est dread of producing themselves in the semi: TO A YOUNG GENTLEMAN WHO KEPT ENTIRELY publicity of a general conversation, because OUT OF COMPANY.
they fear that their special topics may not be
cared for by some of the persons present; but That Society which is frivolous in the mass contains individ- if you can get one of them into a quiet corner
uals who are not frivolous-A piece of the author's early by himself, and humor his shyness with suffiexperience-Those who keep out of Society miss opportunities--People talk about what they have in common
cient delicacy and tact, he will disburden his That we ought to be tolerant of dulness-The loss to mind at last, and experience a relief in so Society if superior men all held aloof-Utility of the gifted doing In general society-They ought not to submit to expul
By keeping out of society altogether you
miss these precious opportunities. The wise I WILLINGLY concede all that you say against course is to mix as much with the world as fashionable society as a whole. It is, as you may be possible without withdrawing too say, frivolous, bent on amusement, incapable much time from your serious studies, but not of attention sufficiently prolonged to grasp to expect anything valuable from the general any serious subject, and liable both to confu- talk, which is nothing but a neutral medium sion and inaccuracy in the ideas which it in which intelligences float and move as hastily forms or easily receives. You do yachts do in sea-water, and for which they right, assuredly, not to let it waste your most ought not to be held individually responsible. valuable hours, but I believe also that you do The talk of Society answers its purpose if it wrong in keeping out of it altogether. simply permits many different people to
The society which seems so frivolous in come together without clashing, and the masses contains individual members who, if purpose of its conventions is the avoidance you knew them better, would be able and of collision. In England the small talk