Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tendency of neoteric education is to seize the future ploughman so soon as he is old enough to wear corduroys, and to teach him decimals and historic dates and mnemonics and geology and other things dear to Mr. Lowe and Professor Huxley : wherefore, in his adolescence, instead of a classic ploughman, you get a day-labourer with a smattering of half-forgotten knowledge that serves only to disgust him with his vocation. It is the same thing all through. If a man is to be a lawyer, they teach him chymistry. People are supposed to know the highest departments of the art they practise, but are found singularly deficient in the elements. There are not three orators in Parliament who can articulate. There are not three writers on the London press who can punctuate. There are not three poets who can rhyme. There are not three generals who thoroughly know geography.

At the foundation of the classic character

lies this impulse—to do the thing which a man best loves, not that which will pay him best. By doing the work that is natural to you, you give your powers fair play: but as it is, we find men at the Bar who were meant for the Church, men writing criticisms who were designed to sweep crossings. One could laugh at these mistakes if they had not troublous results. Folly invariably begets disaster. I have in my short life—and, on my own theory, I am yet a mere boy—seen several monarchs and ministers at whom it was impossible to help laughing, yet who did mischief by no means laughable. There are not many points in which I agree with Mr. Buckle, but he assuredly was right in his opinion that a fool is more mischievous than a scoundrel. And a fool on a Throne or in a Cabinet ! We have seen such.

I venture to think that I know three men of classic character. Two are men of high patrician blood, born near the beginning of

[ocr errors]

the century. Each lives a calm and complete life, enjoying existence perfectly, fulfiling destiny without effort. One is a lover of brilliant society, wherein he takes an easy lead : the other, like his friend herein, is also the most intimate observer of animated nature that exists. Every bird in the air is his familiar acquaintance. He writes of them with an inimitably graphic pen. He knows their flight and feather on the instant. He knows all the fish in the streams, all wild creatures that haunt the woodlands. He lives his life: and, though he has definite reason for caring about the future, it does not trouble a temper so tranquil, a mind so nobly poised.

A third whose character I deem classic is a writer of novels which every reader of these pages will have read delightedly. They shall not be named here: let his publishers advertise them. He is also a charming poet ; a charming translator of Greek and Latin poetry; and a gardener worthy, when he passes into the gardens beyond Styx, to be shaken by the hand by old John Evelyn. I agree with Edgar Poe that gardening is the supreme art. It brings you

It brings you into partnership with God. My friend last-named blends the poet and the gardener as no man ever blended them since Adam made his first lovelyric within the nightingale-haunted foliagewalls of Eden. I know nothing pleasanter than to lunch with him on Muscat grapes and Moselle mousseux and listen to the caprices of his converse.

If, dear reader, I could bring before you either of these three : one, let us say, in a brilliant saloon at London-super-Mare ... the second feeding the tame pheasants, a hundred or more, on the lawn of his manor-house ; the third pruning his trees, budding his roses,

.. polishing his stanzas, by the Thames: you would understand better than I have been able to tell you what I mean by the classic character

I

[blocks in formation]

Thi sun is the great origin of health ... the sea is the great healer. The man who would live long should never shun the sunlight. Build your house wide-windowed and many-windowed, so as to catch plenty of it: and have a nursery under glass for your children, where they may roll about in nudity, and absorb the life-giving sunshafts. I suppose that the finest physical example of manhood is an English non-political country gentleman in his prime. Well, he lives out of doors. In autumn and winter he hunts and shoots ; in spring and summer

« AnteriorContinuar »