Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

will not pay to great men the deference that was formerly yielded. Energy and originality being less respected, are becoming more rare; and in England in particular, real energy has hardly any field, except in business, where a large amount of it undoubtedly exists. Our greatness is collective, and depends not upon what we do as individuals, but upon our power of combining. In every successive generation, men more resemble each other in all respects. They are more alike in their civil and political privileges, in their habits, in their tastes, in their manners, in their dress, in what they see, in what they do, in what they read, in what they think, and in what they say. On all sides the process of assimilation is going on. Shades of character are being blended, and contrasts of will are being reconciled. As a natural consequence, the individual life, that is, the life which distinguishes each man from his fellows, is perishing. The consolidation of the many destroys the action of the few. While we amalgamate the mass, we absorb the unit.

The authority of society is, in this way, ruining society itself. For the human faculties can, for the most part, only be exercised and disciplined by the act of choosing; but he who does a thing merely because others do it makes no choice at all. Constantly copying the manners and opinions of our contemporaries, we strike out nothing that is new; we follow on in a dull and monotonous uniformity. We go where others lead. The field of option is being straightened; the number of alternatives is diminishing. And the result is, a sensible decay of that vigor and raciness of character, that diversity and fullness of life, and that audacity both of conception and of execution which marked the strong men of former times, and enabled them at once to improve and to guide the human species

Now all this is gone, perhaps never to return, unless some great convulsion should previously occur. Originality is dying away, and is being replaced by a spirit of servile and apish imitation. We are degenerating into machines who do the will of society; our impulses and desires are repressed by a galling and artificial code; our minds are dwarfed and stunted by the checks and limitations to which we are perpetually subjected.

How, then, is it possible to discover new truths of real importance? How is it possible that creative thought can flourish in so sickly and tainted an atmosphere? Genius is a form of originality; if the originality is discouraged, how can the genius remain ? It is hard to see the remedy for this crying evil. Society is growing so strong as to destroy individuality; that is, to destroy the very quality to which our civilization, and therefore our social fabric, is primarily owing.

The truth is, that we must vindicate the right of each man to do what he likes, and to say what he thinks, to an extent much greater than is usually supposed to be either safe or decent. This we must do for the sake of society, quite as much as for our own sake. That society would be benefited by a greater freedom of action has been already shown; and the same thing may be proved concerning freedom of speech and of writing. In this respect, authors, and the teachers of mankind generally, are far too timid; while the state of public opinion is far too interfering. The remarks which Mr. Mill has made on this are so exhaustive as to be unanswerable; and though many will call in question what he has said respecting the decline of individuality, no well-instructed person will dispute the accuracy of his conclusions respecting the need of an increased liberty of discussion and of publication.

From a review of John Stuart Mill,

on Liberty.»

EUSTACE BUDGELL

(1686–1737)

MUSTACE BUDGELL, one of the associates of Steele and Addison

on the Spectator, was born near Exeter, England, August

h 19th, 1686. His mother was Addison's first cousin and when, after leaving Oxford, he went to London to attempt a living at the bar, Addison befriended him. He soon gave up law for literature, contributing to the Tatler and Guardian, as well as to the Spectator. Much of his writing was political, with no permanent value. When Addison was in the Cabinet, Budgell held office under him in various positions. He was afterwards reduced to desperate straits and his enemies accused him of dishonesty in his attempts to escape the starvation which always menaced Grub Street in his day. It is certain that his morals were doubtful and his suicide by drowning in the Thames (May 4th, 1737) is not a surprising end to his checkered career. Thirty-seven of the Spectator essays were written by him. His style is often very close to that of Addison.

THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF WILL HONEYCOMB
Torva leæna lupum sequitur, lupus ipse capellam;
Florentem cytisum sequitur lasciva capella.

Virg. Ecl. VI. 63.

Lions the wolves, and wolves the kids pursue,
The kids sweet thyme,- and still I follow you.

- Warton

As we were at the club last night I observed that my old

friend Sir Roger, contrary to his usual custom, sat very

silent, and, instead of minding what was said by the company, was whistling to himself in a very thoughtful mood, and playing with a cork. I jogged Sir Andrew Freeport, who sat between us; and, as we were both observing him, we saw the knight shake his head, and heard him say to himself: “A foolish woman! I can't believe it.” Sir Andrew gave him a gentle pat upon the shoulder, and offered to lay him a bottle of wine that he was thinking of the widow. My old friend started, and, recovering out of his brown study, told Sir Andrew that once in his life he had been in the right. In short, after some little hesitation, Sir Roger told us in the fullness of his heart, that he had just received a letter from his steward, which acquainted him that his old rival and antagonist in the country, Sir David Dundrum, had been making a visit to the widow. «However," says Sir Roger, “I can never think that she will have a man that's half a year older than I am, and a noted republican into the bargain."

Will Honeycomb, who looks upon love as his particular province, interrupting our friend with a jaunty laugh, “I thought, knight,” said he, “thou hadst lived long enough in the world not to pin thy happiness upon one that is a woman, and a widow. I think that, without vanity, I may pretend to know as much of the female world as any man in Great Britain; though the chief of my knowledge consists in this, that they are not to be known.” Will immediately, with his usual fluency, rambled into an account of his own amours. «I am now,” says he,“ upon the verge of fifty» (though, by the way, we all knew he was turned of threescore). “You may easily guess, continued Will, “that I have not lived so long in the world without having had some thoughts of settling in it, as the phrase is. To tell you truly, I have several times tried my fortune that way, though I cannot much boast of my success.

“I made my first addresses to a young lady in the country; but when I thought things were pretty well drawing to a conclusion, her father happening to hear that I had formerly boarded with a surgeon, the old put forbade me his house, and within a fortnight after married his daughter to a fox hunter in the neighborhood.

"I made my next application to a widow, and attacked her so briskly that I thought myself within a fortnight of her. As I waited upon her one morning she told me that she intended to keep her ready money and jointure in her own hand, and desired me to call upon her attorney in Lyon's-Inn, who would adjust with me what it was proper for me to add to it. I was so rebuffed by this overture that I never inquired either for her or her attorney afterwards.

"A few months after, I addressed myself to a young lady who was an only daughter, and of a good family. I danced with her at several balls, squeezed her by the hand, said soft things to her, and in short made no doubt of her heart; and, though my fortune was not equal to hers, I was in hopes that her fond father would not deny her the man she had fixed her affections upon. But as I went one day to the house, in order to break the matter to him, I found the whole family in confusion, and heard, to my unspeakable surprise, that Miss Jenny was that very morning run away with the butler.

“I then courted a second widow, and am at a loss to this day how I came to miss her, for she had often commended my person and behavior. Her maid, indeed, told me one day that her mistress said she never saw a gentleman with such a spindle pair of legs as Mr. Honeycomb.

“After this I laid siege to four heiresses successively, and, being a handsome young dog in those days, quickly made a breach in their hearts; but I don't know how it came to pass, though I seldom failed of getting the daughter's consent, I could never in my life get the old people on my side.

"I could give you an account of a thousand other unsuccessful attempts, particularly of one which I made some years since upon an old woman, whom I had certainly borne away with flying colors if her relations had not come pouring in to her assistance from all parts of England; nay, I believe I should have got her at last had not she been carried off by a hard frost.”

As Will's transitions are extremely quick, he turned from Sir Roger, and, applying himself to me, told me there was a passage in the book I had considered last Saturday which deserved to be writ in letters of gold; and taking out a pocket Milton, read the following lines, which are part of one of Adam's speeches to Eve after the fall:

- Oh! why did our
Creator wise! that peopled highest heaven
With spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
Of nature, and not fill the world at once
With men, as angels, without feminine ?
Or find some other way to generate
Mankind ? This mischief had not then befall'n,
And more that shall befall, innumerable
Disturbances on earth, through female snares,
And straight conjunction with this sex: for either
He shall never find out fit mate; but such

« AnteriorContinuar »