« EdellinenJatka »
this sort of homage, nor concerned as a sort of priesthood in collecting and paying it, he looks upon as actually nobody, or as worms crawling upon
the face of the earth without intellectual value or pretensions. He is, therefore, a little surprised and shocked to find, when he deigns to mingle with his fellows, those every-day mortals, on ordinary terms, that they are of a height nearly equal to himself, that they have words, ideas, feelings in common with the best, and are not the mere cyphers he had been led to consider them. From having under-rated, he comes to over-rate them. Having dreamt of no such thing, he is more struck with what he finds than perhaps it deserves ; magnifies the least glimpse of sense or humour into sterling wit or wisdom ; is startled by any objection from so unexpected a quarter; thinks his own advantages of no avail, because they are not the only ones, and shrinks from an encounter with weapons he has not been used to, and from a struggle by which he feels himself degraded. The Knight of La Mancha when soundly beaten by the packstaves of the Yanguesian carriers, laid all the blame on his having condescended to fight with plebeians. The pride of learning comes in to aid the awkwardness and bashfulness of the inexperienced novice, converting his want
of success into the shame and mortification of defeat in what he habitually considers as a contest with inferiors. Indeed, those will always be found to submit with the worst grace to any check or reverse of this kind in common conversation or reasoning, who have been taught to set the most exclusive and disproportioned value on letters : and the most enlightened and accomplished scholars will be less likely to be humbled or put to the blush by the display of common sense or native talent, than the more ignorant, self-sufficient, and pedantic among the learned; for that ignorance, self-sufficiency, and pedantry, are sometimes to be reckoned among the attributes of learning, cannot be disputed. These qualities are not very reconcilable with modest merit; but they are quite consistent with a great deal of blundering, confusion, and want of tact in the commerce of the world. The genuine scholar retires from an unequal conflict into silence and obscurity: the pedant swells into self-importance, and renders himself conspicuous by pompous arrogance and absurdity!
It is hard upon those who have ever taken pains or done any thing to distinguish themselves, that they are seldom the trumpeters of their own achievements; and I believe it may be laid down as a rule, that we receive just as
much homage from others as we exact from them by our own declarations, looks, and manner. But no one who has performed any thing great looks big upon it: those who have any thing to boast of are generally silent on that head, and altogether shy of the subject. With Coriolanus, they “will not have their nothings monster'd.” From familiarity, his own acquirements do not appear so extraordinary to the individual as to others; and there is a natural want of sympathy in this respect. No one who is really capable of great things is proud or vain of his success ; for he thinks more of what he had hoped or has failed to do, than of what he has done. A habit of extreme exertion, or of anxious suspense, is not one of buoyant, overweening self-complacency: those who have all their lives tasked their faculties to the utmost, may be supposed to have quite enough to do without having much disposition left to anticipate their success with confidence, or to glory in it afterwards. The labours of the mind, like the drudgery of the body, depress and take away the usual alacrity of the spirits. Nor can such persons be lifted up with the event; for the im pression of the consequences to result from any arduous undertaking must be light and vain, compared with the toil and anxiety accompany
ing it. It is only those who have done nothing, who fancy they can do every thing; or who have leisure and inclination to admire themselves. To sit before a glass and smile delighted at our own image, is merely a tax on our egotism and self-conceit; and these are resources not easily exhausted in some persons ; or if they are, the deficiency is supplied by flatterers who surround the vain, like a natural atmosphere. Fools who take all their opinions at second-hand cannot resist the coxcomb's delight in himself; or it might be said that folly is the natural mirror of vanity. The greatest heroes, it has often been observed, do not show it in their faces; nor do philosophers affect to be thought wise. Little minds triumph on small occasions, or over puny competitors : the loftiest wish for higher opportunities of signalising themselves, or compare themselves with those models that leave them no room for flippant exultation. Either great things are accomplished with labour and pains, which stamp their impression on the general character and tone of feeling; or if this should not be the case (as sometimes happens), and they are the effect of genius and a happiness of nature, then they cost too little to be much thought of, and we rather wonder at others for admiring them, than at ourselves for
having performed them. “Vix ea nostra voco” --is the motto of spontaneous talent; and in neither case is conceit the exuberant growth of great original power or of great attainments.
In one particular, the uneducated man carries it hollow against the man of thought and refinement: the first can shoot in the long bow, which the last cannot for the life of him. He who has spent the best part of his time and wasted his best powers in endeavouring to answer the question—“What is truth ?”—scorns a lie, and every thing making the smallest approach to
His mind by habit has become tenacious of, devoted to the truth. The grossness and vulgarity of falsehood shock the delicacy of his perceptions, as much as it would shock the finest artist to be obliged to daub in a sign-post, or scrawl a caricature. He cannot make up his mind to derive any benefit from so pitiful and disgusting a source. Tell me that a man is a metaphysician, and at the same time that he is given to shallow and sordid boasting, and I will not believe you. After striving to raise himself to an equality with truth and nature by patient investigation and refined distinctions (which few can make)—whether he succeed or fail, he cannot stoop to acquire a spurious reputation, or to advance himself or lessen others by