Impressions of Theophrastus Such eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.
of wishing to shake him off.  It was not altogether so; but poor Merman’s society had undeniably ceased to be attractive, and it was difficult to help him.  At last the pressure of want urged him to try for a post far beneath his earlier prospects, and he gained it.  He holds it still, for he has no vices, and his domestic life has kept up a sweetening current of motive around and within him.  Nevertheless, the bitter flavour mingling itself with all topics, the premature weariness and withering, are irrevocably there.  It is as if he had gone through a disease which alters what we call the constitution.  He has long ceased to talk eagerly of the ideas which possess him, or to attempt making proselytes.  The dial has moved onward, and he himself sees many of his former guesses in a new light.  On the other hand, he has seen what he foreboded, that the main idea which was at the root of his too rash theorising has been adopted by Grampus and received with general respect, no reference being heard to the ridiculous figure this important conception made when ushered in by the incompetent “Others.”

Now and then, on rare occasions, when a sympathetic tete-a-tete has restored some of his old expansiveness, he will tell a companion in a railway carriage, or other place of meeting favourable to autobiographical confidences, what has been the course of things in his particular case, as an example of the justice to be expected of the world.  The companion usually allows for the bitterness of a disappointed man, and is secretly disinclined to believe that Grampus was to blame.

IV.

A MAN SURPRISED AT HIS ORIGINALITY.

Among the many acute sayings of La Rochefoucauld, there is hardly one more acute than this:  “La plus grande ambition n’en a pas la moindre apparence lorsqu’elle se rencontre dans une impossibilite absolue d’arriver ou elle aspire.”  Some of us might do well to use this hint in our treatment of acquaintances and friends from whom we are expecting gratitude because we are so very kind in thinking of them, inviting them, and even listening to what they say—­considering how insignificant they must feel themselves to be.  We are often fallaciously confident in supposing that our friend’s state of mind is appropriate to our moderate estimate of his importance:  almost as if we imagined the humble mollusc (so useful as an illustration) to have a sense of his own exceeding softness and low place in the scale of being.  Your mollusc, on the contrary, is inwardly objecting to every other grade of solid rather than to himself.  Accustomed to observe what we think an unwarrantable conceit exhibiting itself in ridiculous pretensions and forwardness to play the lion’s part, in obvious self-complacency and loud peremptoriness, we are not on the alert to detect the egoistic claims of a more exorbitant kind often hidden under an apparent neutrality or an acquiescence in being put out of the question.

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Impressions of Theophrastus Such from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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