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(A. D. 1782-1859.)
MADAME SWETCHINE — Sophie Soymonoff in her maidenhood was of high Russian birth, and lived for a time the life of the Russian court, as maid of honor to the Empress Marie, unhappy wife of the Czar Paul I. At the bidding of her parents she married General Swetchine, who was many years her senior in age and with whom she had few tastes or interests in common; but he gained her esteem and she lived with him not unhappily until he died, in 1850, at the age of ninety-two. In 1816 they changed their residence to Paris, and there she became the central spirit of a social circle both morally and intellectually distinguished. She had already withdrawn herself from the Greek Church to join the Roman, and was, by her nature, sincerely devout. Her piety, however, had no ascetic taint. She enjoyed society, and, according to the French phrase, “established a salon, which was famous for its charm. Its doors were open to her guests from three o'clock in the afternoon until six, and from nine in the evening until midnight. After that hour, it appears, she gave some time to noting such thoughts as are quoted in the selections that follow. Yet she rose before sunrise, and spent early hours in attending church and visiting the poor. .
Madame Swetchine lived to the ripe age of seventy-seven years, dying in 1859. During her life she published nothing. Only her friends had known of the Thoughts she had written down in her meditative hours. After her death they were given to the world, and the world is richer for the gift.
SELECTIONS FROM THE “ AIRELLES” AND
(From the “Writings of Madame Swetchine,” translated by H. W.
Those who have suffered much are like those who know many languages: they have learned to understand and be understood by all.
Let us desire no more intellect than is requisite for perfect goodness, and that is no small degree; for goodness consists in a knowledge of all the needs of others, and all the means of supplying them which exist within ourselves.
Let us resist the opinion of the world fearlessly, provided only that our self-respect grows in proportion to our indifference.
Our vanity is the constant enemy of our dignity.
Providence has willed that all the virtues should originate in actual wants, and all the vices in factitious ones.
It is by doing right that we arrive at just principles of action.
He who has never denied himself for the sake of giving, has but glanced at the joys of charity. We owe our superfluity; and, to be happy in the performance of our duty, we must exceed it.
How can that gift leave a trace, which has left no void ?
“ Is not life useful when it is happy ?” asks the egotist. "Is it not sufficiently happy when it is useful ?" asks the good man.
Let us exceed our appointed duties, and keep within our lawful pleasures.
Repentance is accepted remorse.
of kindness and sympathy. Some of them will doubtless perish; but if one only lives, it will perfume our steps and rejoice our eyes.
There is nothing at all in life, except what we put there.
It is a mercy to the rich that there are poor. Alms is but the material life of the latter: it is, at least in a degree, the spiritual life of the former.
There are not good things enough in life to indemnify us for the neglect of a single duty.
There is a transcendent power in example. We reform others unconsciously when we walk uprightly.
We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse.
The best advice on the art of being happy is about as easy to follow as advice to be well when one is sick.
To do nothing is not always to lose one's time. To do what we do carelessly, is to lose it inevitably. It is weariness without profit.
We forgive too little — forget too much.
There are two ways of attaining an important end, force and perseverance. Force falls to the lot only of the privileged few, but austere and sustained perseverance can be practised by the most insignificant.
(A. D. 1788–1860.)
ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, who is called the philosopher of Pessimism, was born at Dantzic, before it became a Prussian city, on the 22d of February, 1788, and died at Frankforton-the-Main, in September, 1860. His father was a wealthy merchant, of Dutch descent, a man of superior character and education, whose memory was held in reverence by the son, though he died while the latter was
a youth. His mother was a woman of talent, but so different from himself in disposition that they lived apart, by common agreement, after the father's death. “As long as you are what you are, wrote his mother to him when he was nineteen, “I would rather bring any sacrifice than consent to live with you. Your eternal quibbles, your laments over the stupid world and human misery give me bad nights and unpleasant dreams.” Thus early he had acquired the view of the world and of human life which inspired his pessimistic philosophy. According to his own statement, he had fully matured his philosophical system before he was twenty-seven. At thirty he had finished the work in which it is mainly set forth. This, of which the translated title is “The World as Will and as Idea,” drew little attention for many years; but Schopenhauer lived to see it rank with the greatest productions of German thought. Its influence on the deeper thinking of the world — and perhaps quite as much in the minds that reject its fundamental doctrine as in the minds that accept it—has been of steady growth to the present day.
But his principal work is by no means the sole source of the influence which Schopenhauer has caused to be felt. He wrote on Ethics and on Art, especially on Music, not only with profound originality and suggestiveness, but with a charm of imagination and wit, and with a deftness of literary touch, which are unique in the writings of German philosophers. Of his ethical doctrines, a remarkably comprehensive summary
is contained in a few sentences that we will quote from Miss Helen Zimmer's little book entitled “Arthur Schopenhauer: His Life and Philosophy.” “Schopenhauer's ethics,” says Miss Zimmer, "are implied in the leading principle of his system. Everything hinges upon the affirmation or negation of the Will to live. . . All wrongdoing is in the last analysis resolvable into contempt for the rights of others, into pursuit of one's own advantage, in affirmation of the Will to live at their expense. In its coarsest form this implies the commission of crimes of violence punishable by the legislator, but between these and the most refined forms of egotism the difference is merely one of degree. Right moral action can spring only from the recognition of the essential evil of the phenomenal world, and the deliberate resolve to reduce it to a minimum. The secret of this lies in one word, abnegation. The Will to live' comprehends self-assertion in every form and shape, and as every charitable action involves the denial of self in some respect, it follows that Schopenhauer's morality is in the main equivalent to the inculcation of universal philanthropy. . . . It will be at once apparent that in its practical ethical aspect Schopenhauer's teaching differs in nothing from Buddhismi. The reference of all existence to egotistic desire, the conclusion that as such it must be essentially evil, the further corollary that the road to the extinction of sorrow can only lie through the extinction of desire, and that this can only be attained by the mortification of every passion; these are the very commonplaces of Buddhistic teaching. The spirit in which they are urged is indeed
different. No two things can be much more dissimilar than Schopenhauer's angry invective and Buddha's mild persuasiveness; nor perhaps is the whole body of his ethical doctrine so expressive as Buddha's matchless definition of virtue: “The agreement of the Will with the Conscience.' Substantially, however, the accordance is perfect.
The practical inculcations to which his doctrines led are exemplified in the following maxims, culled from a translation of the first and second parts of Schopenhauer's “Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit.”