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Just here we note, also, that, though these men made conspicuous fight in a world-wide arena, few lessons are more evident than this; we need not seek a wide or a conspicuous field in order to do manful work. Not by struggle and advertising, but by thorough work, enduring reputation is made. A great place is not needed. The man makes the field. Think of Jonathan Edwards at Northampton; of Lyman Beecher at Easthampton and Litchfield. Think of Charles Kingsley's thirty-three years in the poor little parish of Eversley. Charlotte Bronte turned a forlorn Yorkshire rectory into a point of pilgrimage for two nations. Who would not turn aside to Macao, in Southern China, to see that rocky seat overlooking the sea, where the Portuguese Camoens, sorrowful and alone, sung in immortal verse the exploits of the Lusitanians in India? Not the field, but the spirit, makes the man. Thorough work has made the reputation of our excellent academies and colleges. It is not because the firmament is vast, that a star is shining there. It is not because a landscape is charming, that a spring of water is flowing. If it be said that the illustrious men I have named were exceptional by reason of genius, I think it right to say-one assertion about the exceptional man may be affirmed of the average man—a man's force is usually known by his fortieth year. The seeds of youth have either blossomed or fruited, and the field of work is seldom a limitation.
Ah! could we have had an earlier start! Money lacking; a purpose lacking; a moral revolution needed. Everything to hinder, and the years would not stay! So, perhaps, without a boyhood spent in reading or study, with so many years already gone, our horizon lies before us. Our culture is limited by so great loss of seed-time. For, men lose enterprise and enthusiasm, as they advance in years. One grows cautious of health and comfort. Many a success waits on the audacity of youth. Many an opposition gives way before life's young enthusiasm. Youth anticipates; later years bring review. Youth lives in the future; age, in memory.
Perhaps you will say, the examples given seem to assume that culture is akin to fame. We say, then, CHARACTER is moulded chiefly in youth. Then, memory, if ever, is vigorous. Then open infinite possibilities by the power of attention, and by the power of work. Culture begins in youth, or else is often but an imitation. The imitation of culture, like the affectation of manners, unvails either the weakness or the want of character. Some men cannot change a habit; neither a habit of action, nor a mode of thinking, nor a fashion of dress, nor a stripe of politics. You may cram a man of coarse fibre with Greek, Latin, mathematics,. and general literature, and his nature may remain as rough as a horse rasp. Money, and all it will buy, cannot transform character. It may buy a picture, but it cannot furnish sensibility. No matter what the social position may be, all elaborate compliance with the ephemeral customs of society do not make the lady. There are two fools in the world; one is the society woman, the other is the fool who marries her.
Fifty three ladies were on a steamer between Ceylon and Madras. The most unassuming, and the most plainly dressed, were the wife and the daughter of Lord Hobart, and the daughter of the Viceroy of all India. Twenty ladies at the Overlook House in the Catskills. The only women not be-ribboned, be-earringed, and be-haired, were the only representatives of the fine old American families whom I have chanced to see.
Culture may stand for potent resources not displayed. To secure such
resources, the mind must be young and receptive. It is then reverent, and God unlocks the portals of knowledge to the reverent mind. It is then plastic; and the results of early, well-directed reading leave fadeless imprints there. Ah! the years already gone! They have dimmed our memory; and the mind so receptive and reproductive in childhood, presents its images now with blurred or blended lines. What if there were no well-directed habit of reading formed in youth? What if we have come to the fortieth year? One limitation of culture is the number of years already gone.
A corollary to this is the limitation by a partial or eclectic course of study. The tendency of American institutions seems to be toward finding a short cut. No long apprenticeships in trades. Scanty preparation will gain a diploma in medicine and theology. The apology is lack of time. It is not time, but the fever and impatience of our race. It is a mischief of our laws and institutions, which permit quackery in honorable trades and professions. A man ignorant of everything essential, may yet, in six months, put up his sign as physician or oculist. May the time come when our colleges will not tolerate a hop, skip and jump to a diploma.
Another limitation is,
The lack of reading.
Though "reading maketh a full man," the lack of readers presages starvation amid plenty. A friend offers to show a large private library, and believes he may safely affirm that the owner has not read a book in it. How glib people are about books! How we chatter about authors we have never read! And yet, one hour's reading every day would transform a life.
I saw an honest fellow the other day. A friend offered to show him something in a paper. Oh, no!" said he, "I don't read." He was rather a dull-eyed person, and his features seemed to have been put on warm, and had, somehow, run together, and spoiled any chance for clear cut expression; but he was as honest a man, in the matter of reading, as I have seen.
Through the lack of reading, our mental reservoirs are so shallow! I know no great producer who is not a great consumer.
Two things have, I think, hindered the amount of our reading in youth. One is the indiscriminate censure passed upon novels and even upon Shakspeare-the world's supreme and unequalled poet; the other is the lack of interest taken in a child's reading by teacher or parent--the lack of intelligent direction given the child how and what to read. Against all the practical advantages derived at school between my eighth and twelfth year, I would freely balance my reading, which, beside stories, included the reading of the eight volumes of Rollin's Ancient History, recommended by my teacher, and which gave me at twelve, together with the completed reading of the Bible, by my mother's chair, the substantial basis of history for the reading of later years. But, mathematics are now sometimes taught in a better way than formerly; and some teachers know that for a child to be master of the intricacies of "fractions," and to know what the words of a formula mean, is more than to pass on to the end of the arithmetic, after the old, hurried and unsatisfactory fashion.
And now may the Almighty send the day when high-pressure lessons will be over, and short, thoroughly taught ones take their place, and the
teacher's realm include the grass and herbs of the field, the stones by the way, birds, bugs, flying and creeping things, and, as the parents won't do it, the inspiring of a child to make up cabinets botanical and entomological, and, also, the inspiring of the child to read, read, read— history, travels, biography, poetry, fiction. Brother teacher, inspire a boy to read.
Did you ever look over the enormous mass of one year's reading and study enumerated by Macaulay, or the work of Mill during his youth? Anybody is ready to say that a vast amount of reading is not essential; but, for the average man, it will do. We might fill a page in showing how great was the learning or the reading of eminent men of letters, and it would be instructive, for we would see upon what solid foundations the creations of genius were laid; we would see how little that word genius means, and how much is meant by industry.
I once thought that if Macaulay became suddenly famous by his essay on Milton, it was the natural result of the brilliant effort of a reviewer favored by peculiar genius; but I saw farther into his life when I read that extract from his journal at the close of 1835:
"During the past thirteen months I have read Eschylus twice, Sophocles twice, Euripides once, Pindar twice, Callimachus, Appolonius Rhodius, Quintus Calaber, Theocritus twice, Herodotus, Thucydides, almost all Xenophon, almost all Plato, Aristotle's Politics and a good deal of his Organon, besides dipping elsewhere in him, the whole of Plutarch's Lives, about half of Lucian, two or three books of Athanæus, Plautus twice, Terence twice, Lucretins twice, Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, Lucan, Statius, Silius Italicus, Livy, Velleius Paterculus, Sallust, and, lastly, Cicero."
Truly, he was an enormous reader, and no mention made of his reading in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, nor of his writing, nor of his time spent at the Council Board of India, where his services were valued at fifty thousand dollars a year.
But he had an advantage over one or two of you in this-his Sundays were given to Latin and Greek! He was a scholar; and we can forgive his complacency, when he notes in his journal the reading of fourteen books of the Odyssey while walking to Worcester and back.
Charles Kingsley did not spend his Sundays as Macaulay did in India, but, like others eminent in letters, the amount of his reading, year by year, was enormous. And then, he could not have read so much as Mill. In the charming memoir of Kingsley, you will see that, in the last twenty-seven years of his fifty-five of life, he published thirty-seven volumes. That is, there were twenty-eight years of seed-time, and twenty-seven for reaping and for fame.
Macaulay and Kingsley began early. You say, they had genius. So they had, and some things a good deal better than genius; namely: Attention, Memory, Work-that triumvirate of power.
Memory, I concede to be a gift; but we may develop the power of attention and the power of work.
Johnson says: "The art of memory is the art of attention." Pick out a boy who has the three powers I have named, and who also reads, and I know not what is shut up to him.
Reading is the daily discovery of new worlds. Ideas are few and small when the mind is centered on little things. If the shoemaker be not aroused to think beyond his last or his leather, his ideas will presently be no bigger than a last.
The lack of historical reading leaves us unable to make a true ideal presence of the past. The lack of acquaintance with the poets may leave the sensibilities, or, perhaps, the imagination, uncultured. Communion with master minds, whose lives are instructive, imaginative, and, perhaps, mirthful-how will it stimulate and refresh !
It was said in olden time-"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." A reading people will be a free people.
Reading is the multiplication of resources. No man needs so vast resources of fact, fancy, and suggestion, as the man who now presumes to speak from the pulpit, or to guide the growing energies of the young. We supplement this division by urging that our culture in college is commonly limited by lack of acquaintance with our mother tongue. A college graduate may know something about mechanical composition in Greek and Latin, but how much he knows about expression in English writing and speaking may be a question. Few, indeed, are the colleges where men are not found, who, while ordinarily skilled in the classics, are puny in English composition. A classic head-gear tricks off an English "tramp."
If a man mispronounce a Latin or Greek word in class, he may be laughed at all around the room; but his pronunciation of English may be barbarous, and, perhaps, neither tutor nor class could correct him! It is so in the common schools, where the teacher's pronunciation of common, scientific, and geographical terms, is simply a jargon. We select as another limitation,
The lack of manners.
There is no gainsaying that the lack of manners will prove a limitation in life. The cause of such lack is often found in willfulness, want of deference, or in the lack of early training. Manners are a power in the world. In religious matters, it is sometimes hard to tell how much is religion, and how much is manners. Timidity baffles the instincts of courtesy. The want of familiarity with polite usages gives us a deal of trouble. But willfulness makes us commit all manner of barbarisms, and the shameful lack of a deferential spirit transforms us into boors.
Readiness to pay respect-willingness to pay worship-that is the soul of politeness. Let us not be afraid to comply with the promptings of a kindly and generous spirit.
By manners, then, we mean courtesy, deference, and the manifestation of a kindly spirit. Courtesy is willingness to pay worship.
The lack of deference will prove a limitation in life. Take counsel; seek counsel; contribute to the general enjoyment; and be not of those who expect to be entertained. We are so self-conscious, and so exacting of first attentions, we will not show even the deference which we feel.
We must not forget the danger of an affectation of culture. An honest-minded teacher may fall into imitations of manners and speech. Kind in spirit, he would be agreeable; but either carries the effort too far, and has no force in reserve, or, falling into a misconception, he makes more of the form than of the spirit. When self-consciousness enters into our manners, the delicacy of courtesy is lost. Culture of manners, high courtesy, like that of the gentleman to whom I first referred, requires sincerity and simplicity of character. It is not vaneering, but heart of oak.
The want of manners supposes the lack of culture. The expressions of a courteous and kindly spirit partake of the aesthetics of life. Evi
dently, manners do not depend altogether upon the handicraft of the tailor or shoemaker. Manners may be assumed. They may be all there is of a man. They may be the showings of taste, of pride, of vanity, or of custom. To despise them, is boorish. Clothes do not make a man; nor do gentleness and courtesy; neither do ungracious manners nor vulgar habits.
The traveler soon learns to recognize American women abroad. They are commonly eager, rather loud of voice, and given to interrupting the person with whom they talk. They gesticulate, laugh loudly, and have little repose An English lady does not interrupt the speaker, is in no haste, and seldom laughs or talks aloud. The average American lady indulges in no preliminary courteous expressions, or particles, while speaking; but is rapid and incisive, and does not always avoid slang. The English lady is the reverse.
As for Brother Jonathan abroad, he is the same blessed old, whistling, spitting, cross-legged, self-conscious, head-scratching, ill-dressed, freeand-easy dweller of a new country, that ever he was. He will eat with
a knife, and will show that he is not accustomed to napkins!
After all, it is good to be a gentleman. Suppose your nature is positive, and, you may as well add, nervous, hurried; or, suppose it to be untamed: strength and courtesy go well together. An unqualified positive nature is nearly always an impediment.
As far as policy goes, strength and courtesy win. They may do less work; but they have a better time, and they bear away the honors. You say, you hate policy. Very good; hate it all you choose. Still, let us aim for strength and courtesy. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were beaten in the race for the presidency by the wily politicians of not a tithe of their mental force. Clay was one of the most courteous of men, and Webster was as much of a gentleman as so lion-like a man could be. The lions were beaten by foxes for a moment, but not robbed of immortal renown.
The French have a significant expression in noblesse oblige-nobility obliges; favor, attention may be expected from one of position in French society. He is a giver; a benefactor. The noble obliges. Think of it; so many years of student life, and the only nobility we admit is the nobility of culture. Noblesse oblige. I have never met a man more courteous, more unassuming, and more helpful, than the Hon. M. E Grant Duff, Under Secretary for India, and one of the "rising men of England. No limitations for that man by lack of culture, or lack of manners, or lack of deference. And what are we? Why should we be under limitations by lack of æsthetic culture and the minor accomplishments of life? Why should we be so unwilling to show deference? Work and worship; a quiet spirit and a reverent-these will make life broader, and life's bitterness less acute. Noblesse oblige: It is the very consciousness of power, and the rejoicing of a magnanimous spirit.
This high form of a courteous spirit is somewhat rare among us. We Americans have a feverish pulse. We are fired of ambition, and consumed by unrest. We have been taught, by precept and example, to "aim high," and, by consequence, we too often slight our work in the day's job; for the aim is promotion, and not content and thoroughness just where we are. Aim high? No! Aim to do a day's job in a thorough, workman-like way. Leave to God the rest.
Who should possess the spirit of noblesse oblige like the teacher? I have seen Horatio Seymour talking with an ordinary man as courteously