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STYLE VARIES WITH STATES OF FEELING.
of the nature. The predominant feelings have by use trained the intellect to represent them. But while long, though unconscious, discipline has made it do this etticiently, it remains, from lack of practice, incapable of doing the same for the less active feelings; and when these are excited, the usual verbal forms undergo but slight modifications. Let the powers of speech be fully developed, however let the ability of the intellect to utter the emotions be complete; and this fixity of style will disappear. The perfect writer will express himself as Junius, when in the Junius frame of mind; when he feels as Lamb felt, will use a like familiar speech; and will fall into the ruggedness of Carlyle when in a Carlylean mood. Now he will be rhythmical and now irregular; here his language will be plain and there ornate; sometimes his sentences will be balanced and at other times unsymmetrical; for a while there will be considerable sameness, and then again great variety. His mode of expression naturally responding to his state of feeling, there will flow from his pen a composition changing to the same degree that the aspects of his subject change. He will thus without effort conform to what we have seen to be the laws of effect. And while his work presents to the reader that variety needful to prevent continuous exertion of the same faculties, it will also answer to the description of all highly-organized products, both of man and of nature: it will be, not a series of like parts simply placed in juxtaposition, but one whole made up of unlike parts that are mutually dependent.
ROM time to time there returns upon the cautious
thinker, the conclusion that, considered simply as a question of probabilities, it is decidedly unlikely that his views upon any debatable topic are correct. “Here," he reflects, “are thousands around me holding on this or that point opinions differing from mine-wholly in most cases; partially in the rest. Each is as confident as I am of the truth of his convictions. Many of them are possessed of great intelligence; and, rank myself high as I may, I must admit that some are my equals—perhaps my superiors. Yet, while every one of us is sure he is right, unquestionably most of us are wrong. Why should not I be among the mistaken? True, I cannot realize the likelihood that I am so.
But this proves nothing; for though the majority of us are necessarily in error, we all labour under the
* Some of the illustrations used in this essay refer to laws and arrangements since changed; while many recent occurences might now be cited in further aid of its argument. As, however, the reasoning is not affected by these changes; and as to keep it corrected to the facts of the day would involve perpetual alterations; it seems best to leave it substantially in its original state: or rather in the state in which it was republished in Mr. Chapman's “Library for the People.”
DISTRUST OF OUR OPINIONS.
inability to think we are in error. Is it not then foolish thus to trust myself? When I look back into the past,
I find nations, sects, philosophers, cherishing beliefs in science, morals, politics, and religion, which we decisively reject. Yet they held them with a faith quite as strong as ours: nay-stronger, if their intolerance of dissent is any criterion. Of what little worth, therefore, seems this strength of my conviction that I am right! A like warrant has been felt by men all the world through; and, in nine cases out of ten, has proved a delusive warrant. Is it not then absurd in me to put so much faith in
my judg. ments ?”
Barren of practical results as this reflection at first sight appears, it may, and indeed should, influence some of our most important proceedings. Though in daily life we are constantly obliged to act out our inferences, trustless as they may be—though in the house, in the office, in the street, there hourly arise occasions on which we may not hesitate; seeing that if to act is dangerous, never to act at all is fatal—and though, consequently, on our private conduct, this abstract doubt as to the worth of our judgments, must remain inoperative; yet, in our public conduct, we may properly allow it to weigh with us. Here decision is no longer imperative; while the difficulty of deciding aright is incalculably greater. Clearly as we may
think we see how a given measure will work, we may inser, drawing the above induction from human er. perience, that the chances are many against the truth of our anticipations. Whether in most cases it is not wiser to do nothing, becomes now a rational question.
Continuing his self-criticism, the cautious thinker may ceason:“If in these personal transactions, where all the conditions of the case were known to me, I have so often miscalculated, how much oftener shall I miscalculate in political ones, where the conditions are too numerous, too
wide-spread, too complex, too obscure to be understood. Here, doubtless, is a social evil and there a desideratum; and were I sure of doing no mischief I would forthwith try to cure the one and achieve the other. But when I remember how many of my private schemes have miscarried-how speculations have failed, agents proved dishonest, marriage been a disappointment—how I did but puaperize the relative I sought to help—how my carefullygoverned son has turned out worse than most childrenhow the thing I desperately strove against as a misfortune did me immense good—how while the objects I ardently pursued brought me little happiness when gained, most of my pleasures have come from unexpected sources; when I recall these and hosts of like facts, I am struck with the utter incompetence of my intellect to prescribe for society. And as the evil is one under which society has not only lived but grown, while the desideratum is one it may spontaneously secure, as it has most others, in some unforeseen way, I question the propriety of meddling."
There is a great want of this practical humility in our political conduct. Though we have less self-confidence than our ancestors, who did not hesitate to organize in law their judgments on all subjects whatever, we have yet far too much. Thongh we have ceased to assume the infallibility of our theological beliefs, and so ceased to enact them, we have not ceased to enact hosts of other beliefs of an equally doubtful kind. Though we no longer presume to coerce men for their spiritual good, we still think ourselves called upon to coerce them for their material good—not seeing that the one is as useless and as unwarrantable as the other. Innumerable failures seem, so far, powerless to teach this. Take up a daily paper and you will probably find a leader exposing the corruption, negligence, or mismanagement of some State
BLIND FAITH IN ENACTMENTS.
department. Cast your eye down the next column, and it is not unlikely that you will read proposals for an extension of State-supervision. Yesterday came a charge gross carelessness against the Colonial office: to-day Admiralty bunglings are burlesqued: to-morrow brings the question—“Should there not be more coal-mine inspectors ?” Now there is a complaint that the Board of Health is useless; and now an outcry for more railway regulation.
While your ears are still ringing with denunciations of Chancery abuses, or your checks still glowing with indignation at some well-exposed iniquity of the Ecclesiastical Courts, you suddenly como upon suggestions for organizing “a priesthood of science.” Here is a vehement condemnation of the police for stupidly allowing sight-seers to crush each other to death: you look for the corollary that official regulation is not to be trusted: when instead, apropos of a shipwreck, you read an urgent demand for government-inspectors to see that ships always have their boats ready for launching. Thus, while every day chronicles a failure, there every day reappears the belief that it needs but an Act of Parliament and a staff of officers, to effect any end desired. No. where is the perennial faith of mankind better seen, Ever since society existed Disappointment has been preaching—“Put not your trust in legislation;" and yet the trust in legislation seems scarcely diminished.
Did the State fulfil efficiently its unquestionable duties, there would be some excuse for this eagerness to assign it further ones. Were there no complaints of its faulty administration of justice; of its endless delays and untold expenses; of its bringing ruin in place of restitution; of its playing the tyrant where it should have been the protector—did we never hear of its complicated stupidities; its 20,000 statutes, which it assumes all Englishmen to know, and which not one Englishmen does know; its