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I am so much indebted for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly harmony.
“It was," said he, “the opinion of learned philosophers of our race, who lived and fourished long before my time, that this vast world, the Moulin Joly, could not itself subsist more than eighteen hours; and I think there was some foundation for that opinion, since, by the apparent motion of the great luminary that gives life to all nature, and which in my time has evidently declined considerably towards the ocean at the end of our earth, it must then finish its course, be extinguished in the waters that surround us, and leave the world in cold and darkness, necessarily producing universal death and destruction. I have lived seven of those hours, a great age, being no less than four hundred and twenty minutes of time. How very few of us continue so long! I have seen generations born, flourish, and expire. My present friends are the children and grandchildren of the friends of my youth, who are now, alas, no more! And I must soon follow them; for, by the course of nature, though still in health, I cannot expect to live above seven or eight minutes longer. What now avails all my toil and labor, in amassing honeydew on this leaf, which I cannot live to enjoy! What the political struggles I have been engaged in, for the good of my compatriot inhabitants of this bush, or my philosophical studies for the benefit of our race in general! for, in politics, what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemeræ will, in a course of minutes, become corrupt, like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched. And in philosophy how small our progress! Alas! art is long, and life is short! My friends would comfort me with the idea of a name, they say, I shall leave behind me; and they tell me I have lived long enough to nature and to glory. But what will fame be to an ephemera who no longer exists? And what will become of all history in the eighteenth hour, when the world itself, even the whole Moulin Joly, shall come to its end, and be buried in universal ruin ? »
To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain, but the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemeræ, and now and then a kind smile and a tune from the ever-amiable Brillante.
Madame Brillon of Passy.
EDWARD A. FREEMAN
EDWARD AUGUSTUS FREEMAN, essayist and historian, was born HAL in Staffordshire, England, in 1823. After graduating from
Trinity College, Oxford, in 1845, he was connected with the university as Fellow of his college. He was an examiner in Modern History at Oxford for a number of years prior to his appointment as regius professor of Modern History in 1884. He filled this place, and at the same time wrote one volume after another of history and essays until his health failed and he went to Spain, where he died March 16th, 1892. Among his works are «An Essay on Window Tracery,» «The History and Conquest of the Saracens,» « History of the Norman Conquest,» «General Sketch of European History,» « Lectures to American Audiences,” and “Some Impressions of the United States.” Many of his most striking essays, which were written for English reviews, are still uncollected.
HOW TO GROW GREAT MEN
«The chief duty of a nation,” says Mr. Lowell, «is to produce
great men; for without them its history is but the annals
of ants and of bees.” He had already said that his own nation at least “had not lost the power of bringing forth great men.” Perhaps he would say the same of the other three nations which he has brought into the comparison. The power, we may suppose, is there; only just now it is not exercised. Meanwhile all nations may do what Mr. Lowell recommends his own nation to do: they may give the great man, when he does come, his opportunity. Each man of each nation, each of the small men, each of the moderate-sized men, may do all that he can in his humble way to make things generally better, and so to clear the path for the great man. No advice can be better; only one may be wicked enough to doubt whether to make everything as good as possible is the way to make an opportunity for the great man. Great men have commonly found their opportunity in a bad state of things; if all things are just as they should be, there will be nothing for the great man to do. The reformer cannot act where there is nothing to reform; the deliverer cannot act where there is no oppressor. If the Sicilies had been a quiet, prosperous community, living like ants and bees, there would have been no need of Garibaldi, nothing for Garibaldi to do. And a word must be said about the ants and bees who are brought in as in some sort the horrid example. Mr. Lowell takes for granted that the annals of ants and bees can contain no stirring events, no memorable acts of any ants or bees who are natural leaders of their fellows. He takes for granted that such annals as theirs must be dull and unimproving, and that men, in America or anywhere else, ought to seek after a more exciting history. But the annals of ants and bees may be dull, that is uneventful, without any discredit to the ants and bees. It may be that the ants and bees are so perfectly virtuous and happy after their own fashion that their lives go so regularly after a well-ordered plan that there is really nothing to record. One has heard such sayings as that “history is a record of crime,” that «happy is the nation that has no history”; the ants and the bees, and any nations that may be like them, may be all the better and happier for having nothing to set down in their annals. One comes now and then in ancient annals to a year or two marked with a kind of surprise as having passed without any fighting. Clearly in those years the great men of the time must have had less to do, less means of showing their greatness; but one fancies that the small men may have been happier in their own small way; they may have been better pleased, because, to quote another phrase of Mr. Lowell, their house was not always on fire. But are we quite sure that Mr. Lowell is right about the exceeding dullness of the annals of ants and bees ? On these points one would like to examine Sir John Lubbock as well as Mr. Lowell. Are not the bees a political community? They have a queen, and the queen is elective. We are always told that one grub or pupa, or whatever is the scientific name, is chosen and made into a queen, qualified to be the mother of her people, while the rest of her fellows are doomed to abide in the state of hard-working old maids. There must surely be some principle on which the choice is made; the process may be as elaborate as the election of a Doge; it must at least require some debate; the making of a queen may, in a commonwealth of bees, be as exciting a business as a presidential election or a ministerial crisis is among commonwealths of larger animals. One has surely seen beecrowds in as great a state of stir and eagerness as any man-crowd in Trafalgar Square or anywhere else. And as for the ants, some species of them must have very stirring annals. What of those commonwealths of ants which go forth to make war on other commonwealths and which above all things set forth on expeditions to bring home slaves ? Mr. Lowell could not approve of their doings; but he must allow that the record of them cannot fail to be stirring. In such works of strife there must surely be great ants which distinguish themselves above the rest; there must be ants which at such times find their opportunity; ants in whom their fellows put their trust when their house is on fire. It is surely in Watts's “ Divine and Moral Songs » that we read:
«These emmets how little they are in our eyes;
Without our regard or concern."
But that is only the way in which enlightened newspaper writers talk scornfully about «petty states”; it is only the way in which great men, despots, and diplomatists hand over struggling nations to bondage and slaughter, without their regard or concern.
But, after all, a question or two may be asked about the great men whom it is the first duty of a nation to produce. It might be a cavil if one asked how to define a great man; for it would be perfectly fair to answer that great men are among the many things which we know quite well when we see them, but which we cannot accurately define. We perhaps know our great man by instinct, and it does not prove that we do not so know him to say that there may be differences of opinion as to the greatness of any particular man. If one were to attempt a definition of the great man, it might be something like this, that he is one who does great things by virtue of some quality in himself. This shuts out at one end those who do great things in an incidental kind of way, as mere instruments of others or of circumstances; it shuts out at the other end those who have the capacity for doing great things, but who never do them, whether from some fault in themselves or from mere lack of opportunity. As Mr. Lowell says, we must have both the man and the opportunity. It may be very hard on some men who miss the opportunity by
no fault of their own, but we cannot admit the mute inglorious Miltons, as long as they are mute. For as long as they are mute, we cannot be sure of thein; when we hear of
« Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,”
we may, if we are in a spiteful fit, remember that it was said of one who did sway that rod that he was omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset. Galba was found out, and the mute inglorious Miltons might have been found out also; they must all abide in the hypothetical state of the man of whom his friend said in a testimonial that he had not had the advantage of a university education, but there could be no doubt that, if he had, he would have gained the highest honors.” In short, the great man must not only be what philosophers would call great in posse; he must be great in esse : that is, he must find his opportunity.
Then another question may start up, Is the great man necessarily a good man? It is quite certain that men have often done great things for a country or for a cause whose personal lives have not been exactly what they ought to have been. And it is also quite certain that men have often done great things, made great changes, founded states, delivered nations, but even of whose public career we cannot say that it has been wholly for good. The good niay outweigh the bad; but there is bad along with it. Perhaps in practice we draw a rough but quite clear distinction. We call the man who does great things a great man, if his work is good on the whole, if, while doing some harm, he does more good. And perhaps we also throw in some thought as to his motives. We do not expect any man's motives to be impossibly or exceptionally pure; we do not ask for a Timoleon or a Garibaldi every time; we do not ask that the great man, in working for his great cause, should wholly forget himself, his own credit, even his own advantage. But we do ask that his career shall not be a selfish one; we ask that the cause shall come first and self second; if the interest of the cause and his own interest clash, then his own interest must go to the wall. In short, while we may give the title of great to men whose work has some flaws in it, whose motives may not have been always absolutely angelic, we refuse it to men whose work, on however great a scale, has done more harm than good; we refuse it also to men whose motives we believe to have been mainly