Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a

In addition to these adverse forces, physique fairly adequate to the severe which have their origin in the common demands made on the nervous organizaconditions of the life of genius, there are tion. They were men of powerful frame, others which, though less constant, pre strong muscles, and good digestion. But sent themselves very frequently in co- such robustness of bodily health seems by operation with the first. It has often been no means the common rule. The number remarked that the man of decided origi. of puny and ill-formed men who have nality of thought, being as it were one achieved marvellous things in intelleciual born out of due time, has to bear the production is a fact which has often been strain of production for a while uncheered remarked on. So common an accompani. by the smile of recognition. And when ment of great intellectual exertion is dethere is great originality, not only in the fective digestion, that an ingenious writer ideas, but in the form of expression, such has tried to show that the maladies of recognition may come too slowly to be of genius have their main source in dyspepany remunerative value. Neglect or ridi. sia.* No Englishman in thinking of this cule is the form of greeting which the question can fail to recollect that the world has often given to the propounder three of his countrywomen who have given of a new truth; and where, as frequently most distinct proof of creative power happens, the want of instant recognition Charlotte Brontë, Mrs. Browning, and means the pressure of poverty, which George Eliot - were hampered with a chases with unusual severity the delicate playsical frame pitiably unequal to support fibres of sensitive men, we have a new the cerebral superstructure.t and considerable force added to the agen- Coming now to the moral defence, the cies which threaten to undermine the not thought at once suggests itself that, actoo stable edifice of the great man's men.cording to the testimony of more than one tal and moral constitution. Johnson, Less. writer, genius consists in preternatural ing, Burns, Leopardi, and many another force of will more than in anything else. name, will here occur to those familiar It is, we are told, only the man with an with the lives of modern men of letters. infinite capacity to take pains who is truly

In view of this combination of threat great. The prolonged intense concentra. ening agencies, one begins to understand tion of mind which precedes the final the many eloquent things which have been achievement is a severe exertion and strik. said about the fatality of great gifts. ing manifestation of will. Thus one finds a meaning in the definition At the same time, a moment's thought of poetic genius given by Lamartine when will show us that this patient mental in. speaking of Byron — "a vibration of the cubation is no proof of the higher qualities human fibre as strong as the heart of man of will and moral character. The appro. can bear without breaking."

priateness of the old way of speaking of It is not meant here that even when all creative inspiration as a possession is seen these destructive elements are present a in the fact that the will has little to do distinctly pathological condition of mind with bringing on the condition.

“ The must necessarily ensue. Their effect may author," said Lord Beaconsfield on one be fully counteracted by other and resist. occasion, "is a being with a predisposi. ing agencies, Of these the two most im- tion which with him is irresistible, a bent portant are bodily energy and health on which he cagnot in any way avoid, whether the one hand, and strength of will or it drags him to the abstruse researches of character on the other. Where these are both found in a high degree of perfection,

• R. R. Madden, On the Infirmities of Genius. as in Goethe, we have a splendid example | Schopenhauer, in the passages of his work already of healthy genius. On the other hand, if referred to, discusses in a curious and characteristic

way the physical basis of genius. Moreau quotes apo either, and still more, if both, of these are provingly the remark of Lecanus that men of the finest wanting, we have a state of things which genius were of a feeble constitution and often infirm." is exceedingly likely to develop a dis- On the ,other hand, Mr. Galton, in his Hereditary

Genius," contends that the heroes of history are at tinctly pathological state of mind.*

least up to the average of men in physical strength. It How, it may be asked, does it commonly is to be remarked, however, that the reference to unifare with the world's intellectual heroes glers can hardly be taken as representative of creative

[ocr errors]

versity statistics is apt to mislead here. Senior wranwith respect to these means of defence? power. As to the physical defence, it is known fron practical genius, is here referred to.

$ It is evident that only speculative, as distinguished that a number of great men have had a great constructive powers in affairs – the statesman,

general, and so forth – requires will in the higher and • That is, quite apart from any inherited physical organizing intellects rarely exhibit pathological sympo predisposition to nervous disease.

The man of

fuller sense.

And it has been remarked that these

toms.

erudition, or induces him to mount into tient qu'aux grands hommes d'avoir de the feverish and turbulent atmosphere of grands défauts." The large draught of imagination.” This sense of a quasi.ex. mental energy into the channels of image terior pressure and compulsion is attested inative production is apt to leave the will by more than one child of genius. In ill provided in working out the multifari. some cases, more particularly, perhaps, ous tasks of a temperate and virtuous life. among “tone poets,” we find this mastery Our conclusion is that the possession of the individual mind by the creative of genius carries with it special liabilities impulse assuming the striking form of a to the action of the disintegrating forces sudden abstraction of the thoughts from which environ us all. It involves a state the surroundings of the moment. And of delicate equipoise, of unstable equilib. throughout the whole of the creative proc. rium, in the psycho physical organization. ess, the will, though as we have seen ex- Paradoxical as it may seem, one may ven. ercised in a peculiarly severe effort, is not ture to affirm that great original power of exercised fully and in its highest form. mind is incompatible with nice adjustment There is no deliberate choice of activity to surroundings, and so with perfect wellhere. The man does not feel free to stop being. And here it is that we see the or to go on. On the contrary, the will is real qualitative difference between genius in this case pressed into the service of and talent. This last means superior en. the particular emotion that strives for dowment in respect of the common prac. utterance, the particular artistic impulse tical intelligence which all men understand that is irresistibly bent on self-realization. and appraise. The man of talent follows There is nothing here of the higher moral the current modes of thought, keeps his effort of will, in choosing what we are not eye steadily fixed on the popular eye, pro. at the moment inclined to, and resisting duces the kind of thing which bits the the seductive force of extraneous excit- taste of the moment, and is never guilty ants.*

of the folly of abandoning himself to the These fragmentary remarks may help intoxicating excitement of production, us to understand the facts of the case. To the original inventor of ideas and A certain proportion of great thinkers and moulder of new forms of art this intoxicaartists have shown moral as well as intel- tion is, as we have seen, everything. He lectual heroism. Men who were able to is under a kind of divine behest to make take the destruction of a MS. representing and fashion something new and great, and loog and wearisome research as Newton at the moment of compliance recks little and Carlyle took it must have had some of the practical outcome to himself. And. thing of the stuff of which the stoutest such recklessness is clearly only one form character is woven. The patient upbear. of imprudence, and so of mal-adaptation. ing against hardship of men like Johnson But if improvident, he is improvident and Lessing is what gives the moral relish in a high cause. Emerson and others to the biography of men of letters. More have taught us the uses of the great man. than one intellectual' leader, too, has The teacher of a new truth, the discovo shown the rare quality of practical wis. erer of a higher and worthier form of dom. Goethe's calm strength of will dis. artistic expression, is one in advance of playing itself in a careful ordering of the bis age, who by his giant exertions enadaily life is matter of common knowledge. bles the community, and even the whole Beethoven managed just to keep himself race, to reach forward to a further point right by resolute bodily exercise. In in the line of intellectual evolution." He George Eliot an exceptional feeling of is a scout who rides out well in advance moral responsibility sufficed for a nice of the intellectual army, and who by this economizing of the fitful supply of physi. very advance and isolation from the main cal energy:

body is exposed to special perils. Thus At the same time, our slight study of genius, like philanthropy or conscious the ways of genius has familiarized us self-sacrifice for others, is a mode of vari. with illustrations of striking moral weak. ation of human nature wbich, though

We have seen a meaning in unfavorable to the conservation of the Rochefoucauld's paradox that " il n'appar. individual, aids in the evolution of the

species. • This fact of the absence of choice, and the ordinary

If this be a sound view of the nature co-operation of the personal will in artistic production, is illustrated further in the rapidity with which the mind and social function of the man of genius, casts off and ignores its offspring. “Est-ce bien moi it may teach more than one practical les. qui ai fait cela?" asked Voltaire once, on seeing one of his dramas acted. George Eliot attests to this strange

Does it not, for example, suggest unmaternal feeling towards her literary children. that there is room just now for more con•

а

Desses.

son.

sideration in dealing with the infirmities | talk with my father; it will be better that of great men? There is no need of exon. I have something cut and dry to suggest. erating intellectual giants from the graver Moray, of course, made no objection ; human responsibilities. We do well to the route by which his young friend might remember that genius has its own special travel was a matter of perfect indifference responsibilities that noblesse oblige here to him. As for Jack, he knew himself too too. At the same time we shall do well well to imagine that he could ever think also to keep in mind that the life of intel. when he wished to think. With his merlectual creation has its own peculiar be- curial disposition and nervous tempersetments, and that in the very task of ament, he put far more faith in quick fulfilling his high and eminently humane inspirations, influenced by consideration mission, and giving the world of his mind's of circumstances on the spur of the mobest, the great man may become unequal ment, or possibly by the chapter of accito the smaller fortitudes of every-day life. dents. But he had resolved to embark To judge of the degree of blameworthi- on one of the Highland coasting steamers ness of faults of temper is a nice operation at Port Sligachan, simply because he liked which may even transcend the ability of a the idea of a sea-voyage. clever and practised critic. Periaps the The very day he settled that impromptu temper most appropriate to the contem- plan, a gentleman of sympathetic nature, plation of genius, and most conducive to though, as the Americans say, an entire fairness of moral judgment, is one in stranger to him, came to a similar dewhich reverence is softened by personal cision in the Isle of Skye. The Honorgratitude, and this last made more com- able Wilfred Winstanley had all his life pletely human by a touch of regretful been addicted to impulses, though he pity.

nevertheless had made his way in the JAMES Sully. world very successfully. One night he

had gone to bed in the state chamber of Castle Somerled in a less serene frame of mind than was usual with him. For

the most part he was good-nature itself, From Blackwood's Magazine.

as a man ought to be on whom fortune had smiled very steadily. His host's Lafitte had tasted sour; there had been

no savor in the entrées; he had been A MEETING AT THE CROSS-TRACKS.

vexed to find himself “doggish and snapWHEN Jack Venables spoke of stand- pish," as a worthy Quaker used to remark ing in hesitation at cross-ways on the road in his diary. Altogether, when he took of life, he did not carry the metaphor his bedroom candle to go up-stairs he felt quite so far as he might have done. Were strangely out of sorts, and he went to bed we favored by the sight of a sketch map to toss and tumble under the blankets. of our track through the world, we should Towards the small hours his sensations see that there were side paths perpetually gave shape to his suspicions, and he branching off, which to all appearance we turned out of bed into the dawn to con. might just as probably have followed to firm these. our misfortune or our signal advantage. “Gout, by Jove ! I thought as much," While in any general biographical chart, was his rueful verdict, as he gazed on a illustrating the career of sundry individ- swelling toe that blushed under his anx. uals, we should see the paths of others ious examination. “Gout, by Jove ! and striking into our own by the most unex- I'll be bound Willis has brought no col. pected turns at the least likely places; so chicum. It's true that I have not had an that two men thrown together by accident attack for a couple of years. Just like my or Providence shall thereafter walk on to luck,” he added, with the fractious injus. gether side by side, or possibly even arm tice of a spoiled child, "it's choosing to in arm.

lay hold of me in this heaven-forsaken As he fancied, it was nothing more than Patmos, where the doctors are sure to a caprice which decided Mr. Venables to smell of spirits and peat smoke, and their go south by sea, instead of establishing drugs can't be worth the bottles they put communications with the Southern Ex: them in. Well, if I am to be ill, I'll be ill press at Perth. As he remarked to his in Berkeley Square, — always supposing uncle, whom he still politicly took into I don't break down in making a bolt for his confidence, “I may as well think mat. it." ters quietly over, before having a serious And when Willis appeared with his

FORTUNE'S WHEEL.

CHAPTER VIII.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

e

master's hot water, he received orders to that he felt as if the roomy slipper he was make inquiries as to steamers, but to pack wearing had suddenly become several immediately in any case.

sizes too small for him; as if a cook had “Should oo steamer be expected to-day, been scientifically scoring the ailing foot you will go and bargain for a tug, or some in the fashion in which you prepare a thing of that kind.”

spatch.cocked chicken, subsequently rub. And Willis, who had been broken to bing in the mustard and Worcester sauce, passive obedience, and who had long be. not by any means forgetting the cayenne; fore ceased to be surprised at anything, if and as if a spark or two from the glowing be shrugged his shoulders metaphorically, kitchen fire had flown and lodged themsimply answered with a “Yes, sir." selves under the toe-nail. In such cir.

As it happened, a cargo steamer, carry cumstances the Stoic may make no sign, ing passengers when it could pick them but his temper will not be of the sweetest. up, had come the day before into the ad. When bis blinking eyes had accusjacent harbor, and having received prompt tomed themselves to the dimoess, Windespatch from the company's agents, was stanley cast a disconsolate glance around prepared to weigh anchor in the forenoon. him. The low-roofed cabin showed wear Lord Somerled, Mr. Winstanley's noble and tear, and the panels stood sorely in host, protested vehemently against his need of repainting. The table and the friend's departure. Mr. Winstanley was seats in the centre were fixtures, and it profuse of apologies, but inflexible. It needed dexterous navigation to thread the was altogether for Lord Somerled's sake narrow passage between them and the that he left. He had made a rule of never surrounding lockers and horsehair sofas; being laid up in a friend's house when he while a man over the middle height, un. could help it, and it was a rule he had less he stooped his head, must infallibly never hitherto departed from.

bump it against the blackened beams “ Nothing would tempt me to victimize above. But Mr. Winstanley, though he you, my dear fellow. It would be flying loved his luxuries, was an old traveller ;; in the face of all my principles. I hope he had been in queer places and seen I'm unselfish before everything, and" i strange things; nor did be expect in a koow my duty to my neighbor better than Hebridean cattle-boat to find the comforts that."

of a Cupard liner. Had it not been for So his lordship did what the valet did that abominable gout, he would have en. pot venture on. He presumed on a long joyed the novel experience rather than acquaintance so far as to shrug his shoul- otherwise. And, the gout notwithstand: ders openly, and ordered the carriage to ing, he merely made a grimace when the drive Mr. Wiostanley to the harbor. shock-headed and courteous individual

To do Mr. Wiostanley bare justice, who officiated as steward, in answer to however precipitate his impulses, he acted his inquiry as to an available berth, pointed upon them with rare determination. Even to one of the tattered sofas. to himself he would have been loath to “Ye see, sir, we're no just that weel acknowledge that, "not to put too fine a provided with state cabins," said the man point on it," he had made a fool of him-apologetically, as if some half-dozen were self. Yet we will not undertake to say already engaged, and they would have that he had not some searchings of heart, arranged to have one or two more had when he hobbled on his sounder foot they expected his honor's arrival. across the greasy decks of the Cuchullin. “If only I have no companions in my We could almost aver that when he was misery,” murmured Winstanley resigned. assisted down the battered brass-bound ly; and supporting himself on his valet's steps of the dark companion, and had shoulder, he painfully regained the deck. stumbled into the gloom of his strong. But even that very natural wish was not smelling little cabin, he wasted a sigh of to be gratified. soft regret towards the comfortable quar. "I guess, stranger, I must have done ters he had precipitately quitted. If he you a mischief, and seems, judging from suffered, however, like the impenitent your limp when you came aboard, that you cardinal, he “made no sign;" and suffer had been sorter crippled already.” he certainly did, in body if not in spirit. The apology, such as it was, came from The shaking of a carriage is far from be a lank, wiry figure, in a tall stove-pipe hat, ing a sovereigo specific for a sharp attack and a suit of go-to meeting garments; and of gout that has quickly developed itself. Winstanley, although he had been repeatIf we were to give a non-professional di. edly in America, detested Americans of a agnosis of his symptoms, we should say certain class. And assuredly an apology

LIVING AGE. VOL. LI. 2606

of some sort was due, since this particular | early dinner, he almost felt equal to the citizen of the States had brought down occasion. In fact, having merely broken his foot upon Mr. Winstanley's afflicted bis fast upon tea and toast, and beiog a member, making that dignified gentleman man of active habits, and by no means, pirouette on one leg, with his hand on his generally speaking, a gouty subject, the servant's shoulder as the pivot of the cravings of nature began to assert themmovement. Hobbling off in rage and selves. pain, he did not care to prolong the con- He was pleased to find the cabin comversation; but the ejaculation he uttered, paratively well ventilated. The active when beyond earshot of his assailant, Mr. Willis had persuaded the steward to made a Scotch minister, similarly attired open one or two of the bull's eyes, and in black, turn up his eyes in silent protes- admit a current of air. Four gentlemen tation. It was seldoni that Mr. Winstan. had already taken their places at a table ley so far forgot himself. He hated the seated for a dozen : there was his Americlergyman for that silent reproof, but he can acquaintance opposite to the minis. was still more annoyed with himself for ter; while the skipper, who occupied the having given cause for it.

place of honor at the top, was faced by a Ere he had forgiven himself or regained sheep-farmer from “misty Skye,” bound his composure, the vessel was under way. on a pleasure jaunt to the western me. She was a narrow, deep-waisted screw, tropolis of Scotland. indifferently manned, and apparently There is no nobler sight for gods or much overloaded. At least it struck our men than "a great man struggling with friend, who had been at sea in all manner the storms of fate.” Catolike, the Hon. of crast, that she was down by the bead orable Mr. Winstanley had screwed him. and thoroughly out of trim. She carried self up to a pitch of philosophy, where he a load of sheep and black cattle forward, was not to be lightly shaken. He scarcely besides a score or two of Celts, who might finched, so far as could be seen in the be bound for the herring fishing; and ihe dusky twilight of the cabin, when the deck abast the funnel was hampered with American welcomed him with the cordi. a miscellaneous pile of mixed goods, so ality of an old acquaintance, whose that her few hands had little room to friendly offices had given a claim on his move about. “I hope we may have fair good-will. weather," was his passing prayer; but his “Wal, stranger," exclaimed that really mind was chiefly preoccupied with his good fellow, with a warmth that meant a malady, as was only natural. The stamp hearty introduction to the company, of the American's heavy boot was still wal, stranger, here you are, all slicked throbbing and thrilling through all his up and smoothed down. Guess, when fevered pulses; and as the green shores you limped aft with the broken balance of of the land-locked bay seemed to slip past you, after I had most crushed off that the stationary steamer, he paid no sort of gouty foot of yourn, the bristles were up attention to the scenery. But as a sense along the back like a catamount. That of soothing succeeded to acute torments, was human natur', and I apologize. You a change came over the spirit of his remembered me of old Jeb Peabody and dreams. The American's violent remedy Judge Mason's bull. You want to hear had brought temporary relief: instead of about it, you say. Wal, Jeb was ferryman being worse, he felt decidedly better. at Salem Flats, on the Chickabody River, And in that he saw a direct interposition and he kept a liquor bar, and a store for of the Providence which had consistently general rations to the back of that. Allbefriended him through his many wander. tired deaf he was, ever since he had been ings. He had prided himself on always boisted by mistake, when the boys forgot making the best of mankind as he found him, over a blastin' charge in a quartzthem, and here was an opportunity of ris. mine down to Denver. He could take a ing to the occasion - of coming out power of drink could Jeb, but he was apt strong, like Mr. Tapley under adverse to get drowsy over it in a general way. circumstances. He would make the best Wal, one night he was sitting nodding be. of the circumstances, unpromising as bind his pipe in his shanty, when he hears they were, and show himself more than somebody a-tapping at the door. Come civil to the uncongenial companions of in,' says Jeb, still sleepy-like. The party his solitude. An almost miraculous lull on the wrong side of the shingles raps in bis pains confirmed him in his manly again. • Come in,' says Jeb again, 'or resolutions. And when the tinkling of a else, I guess, though it's well on in the cracked bell announced the serving of an fall, you'll find it kinder warm when you

« VorigeDoorgaan »