Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Few young men, however, pause the author who could so sympathize to observe. They rush into friend- with and depict an overmastering ships which prove their temporal grief, understood our nature. and spiritual ruin, on the strength So in modern literature, Shaksof an introduction, a show of good- peare, master of the human heart, fellowship, a bit of flattery, or even is to is a wellspring of unfailing a convivial glass. This remark delight. The humor and braggaapplies with peculiar force to Young docio of Falstaff, the guilt-wasted America, who does not understand, soul of Macbeth, the truculency of or, if so, despises, the conventional Richard, the tenderness of Julietcode in European society, wbich all his imaginings crystallized in makes an applicant always show his perfect language, touch and his credentials. The satiric maxim, move iis, because he so well knew “ Believe every man a rogue till how to realize his own rule of you find him honest," is at once “ holding the mirror up to nature." contrary to Christian charity and Thus, too, in regard to the things absurd; for did we but cultivate, around us, their mastery over is even in a small degree, the observ- depends upon their power of reant faculties that God has given us, vealing glimpses of nature. All we could in by far the majority of the exquisite gems, the fluted picases discover a man's calibre with lasters, perfect statuary, and the as much rapidity as certainty. manifold appliances of a great

After personal observation, books and beautiful civilization, that have serve materially in introducing us been unearthed from the buried to character. Not all books, but cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii, those written by acknowledged have not moved the great heart of readers of the human heart. The humanity so profoundly as did two world instinctively recognizes the simple discoveries. The first was power of such authors, and confers the lara-moulded form of the Roimmortality upon their works. Why man sentinel who stood at bis post, is it that Homer sings his deathless leaning on his spear, and met the song to the listening ages ? Not avalanche of ashes, as it fell like a because of his matchless rhythm or pall upon the doomed city. His language, but because, under the silent form is a token of the courmagic of his genius, there rise be- age and fidelity of which our nature fore us men and women whom we is capable. The second discovery recognize and claim as kindred; was the sweet home-picture of a because he sketches ourselves, and mother fondling her little one, and we seem to have pre-existed in the holding up to its baby grasp an beings whose mind and hearts, apple, as, all intent upon her child, hopes and fears he describes. Tears she did not hear the rush of the start from us as he pictures the lava and fire, that were to mould agony of Priam, father of kings, her and her babe in an immortal prostrate in the dust, at the feet of group, the thought and the sight the murderer of his child, his royal of which would move men more brows incrowned, his gray hairs deeply than any statue chiselled veiling his anguish-riven face, his by Praxiteles, or any painting limnaged hands outstretched in suppli- ed by Apelles. cation for the dead body of bis boy. Books and works of art that The mysterious tie of nature binds deal with any subject for which us to the bereaved man. The light universal sympathy and interest of his fatherly love illumines, and cannot be excited, are of their bis broken sob re-echoes through nature limited in power, save to the two thousand years. We feel that the few to whom they are addressed. There is, 'tis true, something ex- who could hurl the dart and discuss ceedingly beautiful and romantic in farthest; who could wrestle the the idea of Linnæns, the eminent most powerfully ; who could guide botanist, traversing the globe in the the glowing wheels of the chariot pursuit of his favorite study, bend- most skilfully around the Olympic ing over flowers, shielding their ten- circle. In contrast with him stands der petals from the storms that the man of the Greek literary era. visited the rough climes through So the republican Roman was the which his lower pilgrimage led ideal of a warrior; and the degenhim, and rising from the contem- erate children of the Empire, the plation of his floral favorites, to realization of the sensualist's embody their fragrant loveliness dream. Nothing furnishes the in his botanical writings. Yet, mind so much healthy amusement after all, his work does not appeal and instruction as the tracing of to our sympathies as powerfully as apparently trivial causes to the the simplest story of life. Audu- mightiest effects, upon the whole bon with his birds, Cuvier and character of an age. The brusqueBuffon with their animals, Tyndall, ness of the Englishman, the politewith his searchings into the mys- ness of the French, the stolidity of teries of light, Agassiz and his the German, in fact, the distinctive minerals, fail to disprove the say- characteristics of all the modern naing of the poet, " The proper study tions, open a field for investigation

“ of mankind is man."

in which the mind may long dwell Now the natural variety of with pleasure and instruction. human character, the diversified This department of ethnology is forms into which our plastic na- almost wholly abandoned to mature turns, and the influences to terialists, whose only object is to which it is so keenly susceptible, prove that material causes alone, combine in each era to produce such as climatic influences and different types of character. Yet diet, differentiate men, whilst the as the basis of nature remains al. fact is, religious, educational, and ways the same, receiving as a sub- social ideas esert by far the most stratum the different forms and powerful influences. impressions made upon it, there In illustrating these theories, we results a unity in variety; so that take up the average American. despite the varying dispositions le presents an admirable subject and different objects of men, there for dissection and analysis. Our is in each period a prevailing type American life is in its very essence of character, a sameness of traits, changeful, kaleidoscopic, abounda particular cast of thought and ing in rapid transitions, spirited sort of identity of babits, customs, and sensational. If you go to and spirit. These embodied con- China, you will find the same traits, stitute the man of that day. He the same customs, the same insti- . sums up the peculiar genius, tem- tutions that Confucius founded. perament, and civilization of his The son follows the trade or the age.

profession of his father. In keepIt would immensely aid our ing with the system of caste, both readers in the course of thought in China and India, a tailor will which this essay is intended to show you with admiring awe the awaken, if they would familiarize needle and scissors used by his themselves, through history, with great grandfather, and the shoethe man of the most remarkable maker will exhibit the original kit of epochs. For instance, the man of tools of the founder of his house. the Greek heroic period was he Nothing is more different from

the constant change perpetually he is slow and not inclined to hard going on in our social system. It study, as every healthy child should is a boast with us that we have no be, he is railed at and browbeaten distinctions except those of worth, without mercy. School committees intellect, and industry. The widest pat the bright boy on the head, and scope is given to our man to de- tell him that he will become Presivelop bis brain, tact, and resources. dent of the United States. This

The result of this obliteration of abnormal development of the head any hereditary conditions or influ- is conducted without regard to the ences upon a man's individual ca- heart. No religious training, no reer gives a vast stimulus to per- moral influence, no æsthetic resonal

energy and enterprise. laxation, in fact, come in to divert When our man has made his for- his strained attention. The Sabtune he does not care if in tracing bath-school is only day-school with his pedigree, as some one says, you a change of text-books. His mostumble across a wheelbarrow or rality is measured by the number pickaxe.

of Scriptural texts he has comIt is of course rather difficult to mitted to memory. To hasten particularize the characteristics of education every device is resorted so versatile a being, but on reflec- to. The calm, orderly processes tion we think it will be found true to of thought, that form the highest define his general character as fast. education, give way to a system of Rapidity enters as chief element crainming, as hurtful as it is useinto all his doings, from chang- less. A multiplicity of studies is ing the Constitution to eating his confusion. But it matters not prodinner. People coming from the vided our boy can “graduate” at busiest metropolis of Europe and fifteen. landing in New York, have their Hence the marked lack in this breath almost taken away, on sight country of the highest culture in of our man and the boundless ac- the professions. We have more tivity which he displays. He has books but fewer thorough scholars. made the fastest time on record, The race of famous lawyers and clearing the circle of business, sci- physicians seems to have become ence, literature, and politics at a extinct, not through want of natrate compared with which the prog- ural talent in their successors, ress of other nationalities is a but through a superfluity of educaveritable snail's pace. He is sent tional aids that do away with the to school at an age when European necessity of thinking. A physichildren are still in the nursery. cian can prescribe from any number The average American boy gives of medical dictionaries ; a lawyer up childish plays at ten, at which can get up a brief by simply copymature age you will find bim in ing from a legal lexicon. Things the parlor, chatting familiarly with have come to the pass they have his elders.

reached in England, where, it is This precociousness is developed said, a clergyman can command and stimulated by our system of any sermon he desires, at prices public school education. We have ranging from a shilling to five seen boys of twelve engaged in the pounds. Aside altogether from study of political economy and religious grounds, our common mental philosophy. The child is school system has produced a suwhirled through a course of study perficial, impudent, and worthless that confuses and perplexes him; scholarship, which has entered into but he is told that the motto is college and university, and has “Swifter and higher.” If, luckily, turned many a promising student,

, , that gave warrant of ripe culture, touts, the immense hats, the buckled into a conceited sciolist.

and elaborate shoes, and suffocating Truly assured of his superiority neckcloths, harnessed and begirt in in every respect, our American which his slow ancestors paced youth starts out in life with one leisurely along. idea,—to make money as fast as he Why wonder we that under the can. His mind is filled with visions action of these rapid life-currents of self-made men. He reads adver- our society is continually changing,

, tisements of such characters in the our modes of thought ever fluctuaillustrated papers. Mr. Porkpacker, ting, our love of the sensational infor instance, has his portrait and a tensified ? Anything with the rapid biographical sketch regularly repro- element in it charms us. We like duced for the benefit of struggling to be startled. A newspaper withyoung men.” Mr. Porkpacker, the out a sensation in it bores us. Our sketch informs us, was born in very man growls at but secretly enjoys humble circumstances. He learned the details of a robbery or political to read by the light of a pine-knot fraud that runs into the millions. in a backwoods log-cabin. He If he goes to the theatre, he yawns started out in life with nothing but over a tragedy, but looks with a few bogs and a ten-cent note. interest on a sensational drama. By honest industry and pluck he Fires less than Chicago's or Bosmanaged to thrive well. He specu- ton's will not kindle his enthusiasm. lated with bogs so successfully that Not that he delights in any dread he managed to get up a corner in calamity, but the intense activity the pork market, and cleared in one of his life feeds on sensation. day over two hundred thousand His energy is not so continuous dollars. He is now universally as swift. He would engage to known as the “ Hog-Prince of the tunnel the planet through to China, Great West."

if it could be done within a definite Under the inspiriting influence time. Under the application of of these and kindred examples of this energy he has overcome every rapidly made fortunes, our man be. obstacle. He plunges into the gins to work, work, work; doing bosom of the earth and wrings from more in a week than men of other her the treasures which she has nationalities accomplish in a month. hidden in primeval darkness, He thinks nothing of rushing to welded in the grasp of granite, and the railway station with a valise guarded by sentinels whose very the size of a pocket-book, and rid- breath threatens to wither up his ing from an Atlantic seaboard life. The fires of his consuming town through to San Francisco. energy light up his thousands of Speed less than forty miles an hour workshops. The unending whirr puts him in a bad humor. He and sweep of his vast engines are wonders how his ancestors con- music to his ear.

His newspaper tented themselves in a stage.coach. is the world in print. If he makes He smiles pityingly at the thought up his mind to interview an explorer of the old papers that issued extras in the wilds of Africa, he does it. with ten days later from Europe.” If he wants to hear how all the His dress indicates the same love music in the world sounds at once, of speed that characterizes all his he builds a Colosseum and hears it. movements. The short nobby He amuses himself in the same, coat, the light hat, the convenient quick manner. In fact we have no shoes, the easily adjusted collar and recreation properly so called. The neck-tie, are in contrasted rapidity quiet conversation, the lingering with the ponderous coats and sur- visits to art galleries, the exquisite pleasures of music, the leisurely success of Methodism here is the stroll, are not to our man's taste. stimulus, the sensation it causes, He likes to stand up at a bar with and the rapidity with which it a cigar and talk business or politics. makes its conversions. But taking Here is stimulus, the best thing the general people, indifferentism after speed and its general accom- is the prevailing characteristic. paniment.

Its reason is found in the same His political like all his views reluctance to think or investigate. are the result not of deep thought As we remarked in the introductory but natural quickness. Our repub- paragraphs, a man who is obliged lican institutions atford him a wider to think out a religion for himself scope for activity. Of the science will tire of the work. The native of government lie has only one idea, American class care nothing for that his government is the best on religious disputes. Any animosity the face of the earth. His patriot- against the Church can be traced to ism is laudable, and the general the presence of Irish Orangeism or fact is true. But unless our man other old world rancor. This latter learns to think and act as deliber- element working upon American ately as the founders of our govern- indifferentism has had some power ment, he will not be able to make in prejudicing the American mind the boast much longer. The war against Catholicity; but practically with the South resulted from our it matters not to our man whether unfortunate habit of doing every- you are a Protestant or a Hindoo. thing with a rush.

The govern

This inditferentism is to be de. ment is at the mercy of the class plored. Any creed, not positively that think the least. Were it not immoral, is better than none. Infor the President's good sense, we differentism is the avenue to all should have gone to war with Spain vagaries in belief, and from wrong about a crew of freebooters. The belief generally come bad morals. “ sober second thought” seems The liberalism that makes no disrarely to come to us.

tinction between Jew and Chris. Combined with our mechanical tian is pernicious, however good. energy there is this thoughtlessness natured it seems. Yet if this docabout matters of the highest mo- trine is tanght, forthwith the cry of ment. A constituency will return "religious intolerance” is raised. a candidate to oflice who is notori. So far from attempting to check ously incompetent or even dishon- this unfortunate tendency in the est. Corruption and bribery may public mind, Protestantism seems have some part in the election ; but to encourage it. Unable to unite the chief reason for such election is doctrinally, the sects practice inthe indifference of our people. differentism and call it unity. The They will not take time to think. dogmatic lines of difference among They vote as a matter of routine. them have become dimmer year by They laugh over the rascality that year, until the Catholic Church is, robs them, and the stupidity that as she necessarily must be, the only legislates for them, but make no thoroughly distinctive and unique effort to remedy matters. Not one religious body in Christendom. in ten cares about reading the Nobody values the blessings of details of Congressional investiga religious liberty more highly than tions into official misdemeanors. It Catholics, to whom they are genertakes too long!

ally denied. At the •same time we The same carelessness shows do not believe in that liberalism and itself lamentably in our man's re- indifferentism which rank all religious opinions. The secret of the ligions alike. To such an idea may

« ForrigeFortsæt »