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XCVII. — THE BEST KIND OF REVENGE.
1. Some years ago, a warehouseman in Manchester, England, published a scurrilous pamphlet, in which he endeavored to hold up the house of^Grant Brothers to ridicule. William Grant remarked upon the occurrence that the man would live to repent what he had done; and this was conveyed by some tale-bearer to the libeller, who said, " O, I suppose'he thinks I shall some time or other be in his debt; but I will take good care of that." — It happens, however, that a man in business cannot always choose who shall be his creditors. The pamphleteer became a bankrupt, and the brothers held an acceptance" of his which had been endorsed to them by the drawer, who had also become a bankrupt.
2. The wantonly-libelled men had thus become creditors of the libeller! They now had it in their power to make him repent of his audacity. He could not obtain his certificate without their signature, and without it he could not enter into business again. He had obtained the number of signatures required by the bankrupt law, except one. It seemed folly to hope that the firm of "the brothers " would supply the deficiency. What! they, who had cruelly been made the laughing-stocks of the public, forget the wrong and favor the wrong-doer? He despaired. But the claims of a wife and children forced him at last to make the application. Humbled by misery, he presented himself at the counting-house of the wronged.
3. Mr. William Grant was there alone, and his first words to the delinquent were;" " Shut the door, sir !" — sternly uttered. The door was shut, and. the libeller stood trembling before the libelled. He told his' tale, and produced his certificate, which was instantly clutched by the injured merchant. "You wrote a pamphlet against us once !" exclaimed Mr. Grant. The supplicant expected to see his parchment thrown into the fire. But this was not its destination. Mr. Grant took a pen, and writing something upon the document, handed it back to the bankrupt. He, poor wretch, expected to see "rogue, scoundrel, libeller," inscribed, but there was, in fair round characters, the signature of the firm.
4. "We make it a rule," said Mr. Grant, "never to refuse signing the certificate of an honest tradesman, and we have never heard that you were anything else." The tears started into the poor man's eyes. "Ah," said Mr. Grant, "my saying was true1 I said you would live to repent writing that pamphlet. I did not mean it as a threat. . I only meant that some day you would know us better, and be sorry you had tried to injure us. I see you repent of it now." — "I do, I do !" said the grateful man , "I bitterly repent it." — "Well, well, my dear fellow, you know us now. How do you get on? What are you going -to do?" The poor man stated that he had friends who could assist him when his certificate was obtained. — " But how are you off in the mean time?" i
5. And the answer was, that, having given up every farthing to his creditors, he had beea-compelled to stint his family of even common necessities, that he might be enabled to pay the cost of his certificate. "My dear fellow, this will not do; your family must not suffer. Be kind enough to take this ten-pound note to your wife" from me. There, there, my dear fellow! Nay, don't cry; it will be all well with you yet. Keep up your spirits, set to work like a man, and you will raise your head among us yet." The overpowered man endeavored in vain to express his thanks: the swelling in his throat forbade words. He put his handkerchief to his face, and went out of the door crying like a child.
XCVIII. — LABOR AND GENIUS.
1. The prevailing idea with young people has been, the incompatibility of labor and genius;" and, therefore, from the fear of being thought dull, they have thought it necessary to remain ignorant. I have seen, at school and at college, a great many young men completely destroyed by having been so w?ifortunate as to produce an excellent copy of verses. Their genius being now established, all that remained for them to do was to act up to the dignity of the character; and as this dignity consisted in reading nothing new, in forgetting what they had already read, and in pretending to be acquainted with all subjects by a sort of off-hand exertion of talents, they soon collapsed into the most frivolous and insignificant of men.
2. It would be an extremely profitable thing to draw up a short and well-authdnTicated account of the habits of study of th« most celebrated writers with whose style of literary industry we happen to be most acquainted. It would go very far to destroy the absurd and pernicious association of genius and idleness, by showing that the greatest poets, orators," statesmen, and historians, — men of the most brilli5nfr-and imposing talents," — have actually labored as hard as the TliJrfTi of dictionaries and the arrangers of indexes; and that the most obvious reason why they have be^n superior to other men is, that they have taken mor« pains than other men.
3. Gibbon was in his study every morning, winter and summer, »t six o'clock; Mr. Burke was the most laborious and indefatigable of human beings; Leibnitz" was never out of his library; Pascal" killed himself by study; Cicero narrowly escaped death by the same cause; Milton was at his books with as much regn. larity as a merchant or M>-attorney, — he had mastered all the knowledge of his time; so had Homer." Raffaelle" lived but thirty-seven years; and in that short space carried the art so far beyond what it had before reached, that he appears to stand alone as a model to his successors.
4. There are instances to the contrary; but, generally speaking, the life of all truly great men has been a life of intense and incessant labor. They have commonly passed the first half of life in the gross darkness of indigent humility, — overlooked, mistaken, contemned, by weaker men, — thinking while others slept, reading while others rioted, iceling something within them that told them they should not always be kept down among the dregs of the world.
5. And then, when their time was come, and some little accident has given them their first occasion, they have burst out into the light and glory of public life, rich with the spoils of time, and mighty in all the labors and struggles of the mind. Then do the multitude cry out " a miracle of genius!" Yes, he is a miracle of genius, because he is a miracle of labor; because, instead of trusting to the resources of his own single mind, he has ransacked a thousand minds; because he makes use of the accumulated wisdom of ages, and takes as his point of departure the very last line and boundary to which science has advanced; because it has ever been the object of his life to assist every infeTlectual gift of nature, however mumficent, and however splendid, with every resource that art could suggest, and every attention diligence could bestow. ^ *
6. But, while I am descafiting* upon the conduct of the understanding, and the best modes of aco/liiring knowledge, some men may be disposed to ask, "Why p6nduct my understanding with such endless care? and what is the use of so much knowledge?" What is the use of so much knowledge ?— What is the use of so much life? what are we to do with the seventy years of existence allotted to us? and how are we to live them out to the last? I solemnly declare that, but for the love of knowledge, I should consider the life of the meanest hedger and ditcher as preferable to that of the greatest and richest man in existence; for the fire of ou^: minds is like the fire which the Persians burn in the mountains, — it flames night and day, and is immortal, and not to be quelched' Upon something it must act and feed, — upon the pure spirit of knowledge, or upon the foul dregs of polluting passions.
7. Therefore, when I say, in conducting your understanding love knowledge with a great love, with a vehement love, with a love coe'val with life, what do I say, but love innocence; love virtue; love purity of conduct; love that which, if you are rich and great, will sanctify the blind fortune which has made you So, and make men call it justice; love that which, if you are poor, will render your poverty respectable, and make the proudest feel it unjust to laugh at the meanness of your fortunes; love that whi^h will comfort you, adorn you, and never quit you,— which wi' open to you the kingdom of thought, and all the boundlft tl regions of conception, as an asylum" against the cruelty, the injustice, and the pain, that may be your lot in the outer world, — that which will make your motives habitually great and honorable, and light up in an instant a thousand noble disdains at the very thought ofmeanness and of fraud!
8. Therefore, if any young man here have embarked his life in pursuit of knowledge, let him go on without doubting or fearing the event; let him not be intimidated by the cheerless beginnings of knowledge, by the darkness from which she springs, by the difficulties which hover around her, by the wretched habitations in which she dwells, by the want and sorrow which sometimes journey in her train; but let him ever follow her as the Angel that guards him, and as the Genius of his life.- She will bring him out at last into the light of day, and exhibit him to the world comprehensive in acquirements, fertile in resources, rich in imagination, strong in reasoning, prudent and powerful above his fellows in all the relations and in all the offices of life.
REV. SYDNEY SMITH.
XCIX. — PERMANENCE OF THE USEFUL.
1. The tomb of Moses is unknown; but the traveller still slakes his thirst at the well of Jacob. The gorgeous palace of the wisest and wealthiest of monarchs, with its cedar, and gold, and ivory, — even the great temple of Jerusalem," hallowed by the visible glory of the Deity himself, — are gone; but Solomon's reservoirs" are as perfect as ever. Of the ancient architecture of the Holy City not one stone is left upon another; but the,.. pool of Bethes'da commands the pilgrim's reverence at the present day.
2. The columns of Persep'olis are mouldering into dust; but its cisterns and aqueducts" remain to challenge our admiration. The golden house of Nero is a mass of ruins; but the Aqua" Claudia still pours into Home its limpid stream. The temple of the sun, at Tadmor in the wilderness, has fallen , but its fountain Bparklos as freshly in his rays as when thousands of worshippers thronged the lofty colonnades.
3. It may be that Loudon will share the fate of Babylon, and nothing be left to mark its site save confused mounds of crumbling brick-work. But the works of Nature are imperishable. The Thames" will continue to flow as it does now; and if any work of art should still rise over the deep ocean of Time, wo may well believe that it will be neither a palace nor a temple, but some vast aqueduct or reservoir; and if any name should still flash through the mist of antiquity," it will probably be that of the man who, in his day, sought the happiness of his fellow-men rather than their glory, and linked his memory to some great work of national utility and benevolence. Quarterly Rsview.
0. — TO THE FLYING-FISH.
1. When I have seen thy snow-white wing
As if thy frame were formed to rise,
2. But when I see that wing so bright
Alas! the flattering pride is o'er;
3. 0, Virtue! when thy clime I seek.