Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

all responsibility for its abuse in incompetent bands.

This business of conversation is a very serious matter. There are men that it weakens one to talk with an hour more than a day's fasting would do. Mark this that I am going to say, for it is as good as a working professional man's advice, and costs you, nothing: It is better to lose a pint of blood from your veins than to have a nerve tapped. Nobody measures your nervous force as it runs away, nor bandages your brain and marrow after the operation.

There are men of esprit who are excessively ex. bausting to some people. They are the talkers who have what may be called jerky minds. Their thoughts do not run in the natural order of sequence. They say bright things on all possible subjects, but their zigzags rack you to death. After a jolting halfhour with one of these jerky companions, talking with a dull friend affords great relief. It is like taking the cat in your lap after holding a squirrel

What a comfort a dull but kindly person is, to be sure, at times! A ground-glass shade over a gas. lamp does not bring more solace to our dazzled eyes than such a one to our minds.

" Do not dull people bore you?said one of the lady-boarders,—the same that sent me her autographbook last week with a request for a few original stanzas, not remembering that « The Pactolian” pays

me five dollars a line for every thing I write in its columns.

“Madam," said I, (she and the century were in their teens together,)“ all men are bores, except when we want them. There never was but one man whom I would trust with my latch-key."

" Who might that favored person be ?" “ Zimmermann."

-The men of genius that I fancy most have erectile heads like the cobra-di-capello. You remem. ber what they tell of William Pinkney, the great pleader; how in his eloquent paroxysms the veins of his neck would swell and his face fush and his eyes glitter, until he seemed on the verge of apoplexy. The hydraulic arrangements for supplying the brain with blood are only second in importance to its own organization. The bulbous-headed fellows that steam well when they are at work are the men that draw big audiences and give us marrowy books and pictures. It is a good sign to have one's feet grow cold when he is writing. A great writer and speaker once told me that he often wrote with his feet in hot water; but for this, all his blood would have run into bis head, as the mercury sometimes withdraws into the ball of a thermometer.

- You don't suppose that my remarks made at this table are like so many postage-stamps, do you, each to be only once uttered ? If you do, you are mistaken. He must be a poor creature that does not often repeat himself. Imagine the author of the ex cellent piece of advice, “ Know thyself,” never allud. ing to that sentiment again during the course of a protracted existence! Why, the truths a man carries about with him are his tools; and do you think & carpenter is bound to use the same plane but once to smooth a knotty board with, or to hang up his hammer after it has driven its first nail ? I shall never repeat a conversation, but an idea often. I sball use the same types when I like, but not com. monly the same stereotypes. A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times. It has come to you over a new route, by a new and express train of associations.

Sometimes, but rarely, one may be caught making the same speech twice over, and yet be held blameless. Thus, a certain lecturer, after performing in an inland city, where dwells a Lillératrice of note, was invited to meet her and others over the social teacup. She pleasantly referred to his many wanderings in his vew occupation. “ Yes," he replied, “ I am like the Huma, the bird that never lights, being always in the cars, as he is always on the wing."— Years elapsed. The lecturer visited the same place once more for the same purpose. Another social cup after the lecture, and a second meeting with the distinguished lady. “ You are constantly going from place to place,” she said.— Yes,” he answered, “ I am like the Huma," and finished the sentence as before.

What horrors, when it flashed over him that he had made this fine speech, word for word, twice over! Yet it was not true, as the lady might perhaps have fairly inferred, that he had embellished his conversation with the Huma daily during that whole interval of years. On the contrary, he had never once thought of the odious fowl until the recurrence of precisely the same circumstances brought up precisely the same idea. He ought to have been proud of the accuracy of his mental adjustments. Given certain factors, and a sound brain should always evolve the same fixed product with the certainty of Babbage's calculating machine.

What a satire, by the way, is that machine on the mere mathematician! A Frankenstein-monster, a thing without brains and without heart, too stupid to make a blunder; that turns out results like a cornsheller, and never grows any wiser or better, though it grind a thousand bushels of them!

I have an immense respect for a man of talents plus “ the mathematics." But the calculating power alone should seem to be the least human of qualities, and to have the sinallest amount of reason in it; since a machine can be made to do the work of three or four calculators, and better than any one of them. Sometimes I have been troubled that I had not a deeper intuitive apprehension of the relations of num. bers. But the triumph of the ciphering hand-organ bas consoled me. I always fancy I can hear the wheels clicking in a calculator's brain. The power of dealing with numbers is a kind of “ detached lever” arrangement, which may be put into a mighty poor watch. I suppose it is about as common as the power of inoving the ears voluntarily, which is a moderately rare endowment

- Little localized powers, and little narrow streaks of specialized knowledge, are things men are very apt to be conceited about Nature is very wise; but for this encouraging principle how many small talents and little accomplishments would be nego lected! Talk about conceit as much as you like, it is to human character what salt is to the ocean; it keeps it sweet, and renders it endurable. Say rather it is like the natural unguent of the sea-fowl's plumage, which enables him to shed the rain that falls on him and the wave in which he dips. When one has had all his conceit taken out of him, when he bas lost all his illusions, his feathers will soon soak through, and he will fly no more.

“So you admire conceited people, do you ?” said the young lady who has come to the city to be fin. ished off for—the duties of life.

I am afraid you do not study logic at your school, my dear. It does not follow that I wish to be pickled in brine because I like a salt-water plunge at Nahant. I say that conceit is just as natural a thing to buman minds as a centre is to a circle. But little-minded people's thoughts move in such small

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »