Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

see a

many pieces of bread have you licked up from his extended palm. A thought has struck me which I wish to preserve in writing, though indeed at this rate it will be a long time before I work my way to it.

I am waiting here for five minutes till my man-servant shall return with something for which he has been sent, and wherefore should even five minutes be wasted ? Life is not very long, and the minutes in which one can write with ease are not very many. And perhaps the newness of such a place of writing may communicate something of freshness to what is traced by a somewhat jaded hand. You winced a little, Old Boy, as I disposed my book and this scrap of an old letter on your face, but now you stand perfectly still. On either side of this

page

I large eye looking down wistfully ; above the page a pair of ears are cocked in quiet curiosity, but with no indication of fear. Not that you are deficient in spirit, my dumb friend ; you will do your twelve miles an hour with any steed within some miles of you ; but a long course of kindness has gentled you as well as Mr. Rarey could have done, though no more than seven summers have passed over your head. Let us ever, kindly reader, look with especial sympathy and regard at any inferior animal on which the doom of man has fallen, and which must eat its food, if not in the sweat of its brow, then in that of its sides. Curious, that a creature should be called all through life to labour, for which yet there remains no rest! As for us human beings, we can understand and we can bear with much evil, and many

trials and sorrows here, because we are taught that all these form the discipline which shall prepare us for another world, a world that shall set this right. But for you, my poor fellow-creature, I think with sorrow as I write here upon your head, there remains no such immortality as remains for me. What a difference between us ! You to your sixteen or eighteen years here, and then oblivion. I to my threescore and ten, and then eternity! Yes, the difference is immense; and it touches me to think of your life and mine, of your doom and mine. I know a house where, at morning and evening prayer, when the household assembles, among the servants there always walks in a certain shaggy little dog, who listens with the deepest attention and the most solemn gravity to all that is said, and then, when prayers are over, goes out again with his friends. I cannot witness that silent procedure without being much moved by the sight. Ah, my fellow-creature, this is something in which you have no part! Made by the same Hand, breathing the same air, sustained like us by food and drink, you are witnessing an act of ours which relates to interests that do not concern you, and of which you have no idea. And so, here we are, you standing at the manger, Old Boy, and I sitting upon it; the mortal and the immortal; close together; your nose on my knee, my paper on your head; yet with something between us broader than the broad Atlantic. As for you, if you suffer here, there is no other life to make up for it. Yet it would be well if many of those who are your betters in the scale of creation, fulfilled their Creator's purposes as well as you. He gave you strength and swiftness, and you use these to many a valuable end: not many of the superior race will venture to say that they turn the powers God gave them to account as worthy of their nature. If it come to the question of deserving, you deserve better than me. Forgive me, my fellow-creature, if I have sometimes given you an angry flick, when you shied a little at a

pig or a donkey. But I know you bear me no malice ; you forget the flicks (they are not many), and

you

think rather of the bread and the carrots, of the times I have pulled your ears, and smoothed your neck, and patted your nose.

And forasmuch as this is all your life, I shall do my very best to make it a comfortable one. Happiness, of course, is something which you can never know. Yet, my friend and companion through many weary miles, you shall have a deep-littered stall, and store of corn and hay so long as I can give them; and may this hand never write another line if it ever does you wilful injury !

Into this paragraph has my pencil of its own accord rambled, though it was taken up to write about something else. And such is the happiness of the writer of essays: he may wander about the world of thought at his will. The style of the essayist has attained what may be esteemed the perfection of freedom, when it permits him, in writing upon any subject whatsoever, to say whatever may occur to him upon any other subject. And truly it is a pleasing thing for one long trammelled by the requirements of a rigorous logic, and fettered by thoughts of symmetry, connexion, and neatness in the discussion of his topic, to enter upon a fresh field where all these things go for nothing, and to write for readers many of whom would never notice such characteristics if they were present, nor ever miss them if they were absent. There is all the difference between plodding wearily along the dusty highway, and rambling through green fields, and over country stiles, leisurely, saunteringly, going nowhere in particular. You would not wish to be always desultory and rambling, but it is pleasant to be so now and then. And there is a delightful freedom about the feeling that you are producing an entirely unsymmetrical composition. It is fearful work, if you have a thousand thoughts and shades of thought about any subject, to get them all arranged in what a logician would call their proper places. It is like having a dissected puzzle of a thousand pieces given you in confusion, and being required to fit all the little pieces of ivory into their box again. By most men this work of orderly and symmetrical composition can be done well only by its being done comparatively slowly. In the case of ordinary folk the mind is a machine, which may indeed, by putting on extra pressure, be worked faster; but the result is the deterioration of the material which it turns off. It is an extraordinary gift of nature and training, when a man is like Follett, who, after getting the facts of an involved and intricate case into his mind only at one or two o'clock in the morning, could appear in Court at nine A. M., and there proceed to state the case and all his reasonings upon it, with the very perfection of logical method, every thought in its proper place, and all this at the rate of rapid extempore speaking. The difference between the rate of writing and that of speaking, with most men, makes the difference between producing good material and bad. A great many minds can turn off a fair manufacture at the rate of writing, which, when overdriven to keep pace with speaking, will bring forth very poor stuff indeed. And besides this, most people cannot grasp a large subject in all its exent and its bearings, and get their thoughts upon it marshalled and sorted, unless they have at least two or three days to do so. At first all is confusion and indefiniteness, but gradually things settle into order. Hardly any mind, by any effort, can get them into order quickly. If at all, it is by a tremendous exertion; whereas the mind has a curious power, without any perceptible effort, of arranging in order thoughts upon any subject, if you give it time. Who that has ever written his ideas on some involved point but knows this? You begin by getting up information on the subject about which you are to write. You throw into the mind, as it were, a great heap of crude, unordered material. From this book and that book, from this review and that newspaper, you collect the observations of men who have regarded your subject from quite different points of view, and for quite different purposes; you throw into the mind cartload after cartload of facts and opinions, with a despairing wonder how you will ever be able to get that huge, contradictory, vague mass into anything like shape and order. And if, the minute you had all your matter accumulated, you were called on to state what you knew or thought upon the subject, you could not do so for your life in any satisfactory manner. You would not know where to begin, or how to go on; it would be all confusion and bewilderment. Well, do not make the slightest effort. What is impossible now will be quite easy by and bye. The peas, which cost a sovereign a pint at Christmas, are quite cheap in their proper season. Go about other things for three or four days : and at the end of that time you will be aware that the machinery of your mind, voluntarily and almost unconsciously playing, has sorted and arranged that mass of matter which you threw into it. Where all was confusion and uncertainty, all is now order and clearness; and you see exactly where to begin, and what to say next, and where and how to leave off.

The probability is, that all this has not been done without an effort, and a considerable amount of labour. But

« ZurückWeiter »