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But the force loses this character of excess when we regard it from the right point of view-the human, not the individual. Referred to the man who seems to exert it, the power displayed in a great work of genius is a miracle; referred to the human race, it is moderate and natural. The force of innumerable minds comes into play in one who offers to it a ready passage, and we exclaim, “Behold a prodigy!" And we marvel the more, because so often we can find in the man himself nothing to account for, or even proportionate to, the amazing power. It is as if we ascribed the force which elevates a fountain to the immediate pipe from which it issues. We do not look behind and note the pressing flood.
There is no ground for pride in genius; it is a privilege which may well make humble; not a possession which might puff up. The man of genius is the servant of the human race, privileged to wait on all its workers, gathering up even the fragments that nothing may be lost. Greatest of all, because the servant of all. Nor, indeed, are men of genius proud; a wise instinct in their heart teaches them better. Unconscious of the true source of their power in the labours of other men, they have yet felt that it was not theirs. Hence those frequent disclaimers, that we have referred to before, of the possession of any peculiar powers. They are not conscious of any; often, indeed, they are sure that they have none. But if wrongly put ideas will right themselves in their minds, how can they help it?
If they could help being punished for it, that were something—punished with incredulity, with scorn, with bitter blame; in days less polished and more in earnest than our own, with cruel stripes and flames; in our own days but perhaps we are better than our fathers. Yet
who has held the balance for us between being quickly burnt or slowly starved?
This, however, we may say, in our own and their excuse, that it was very hard for us, or for them, to have been called upon to receive what genius had to tell, not understanding what its place and mission were. Thinking that man's labours run, or should run, in the true line of his advance, how could men admit without long struggles ideas which revolutionised them all? Judging that a man's possible achievements were to be estimated by his own proper powers, how could they consent to receive from him as true that which palpably transcended the capacity of men? Peace be to the ashes of persecutor and persecuted man alike! Both thought, and both still think, to do God service; and we will reverence the incredulity as well as the revelation. How should the world forego its martyrs-by fagot or by famine?
The following Papers, contributed from various sources, have been written in each case from the recollection of one or of several conversations.