Impressions of Theophrastus Such eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 202 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.
by temper has its worst effects in the career of the public man, who is always in danger of getting so enthralled by his own words that he looks into facts and questions not to get rectifying knowledge, but to get evidence that will justify his actual attitude which was assumed under an impulse dependent on something else than knowledge.  There has been plenty of insistance on the evil of swearing by the words of a master, and having the judgment uniformly controlled by a “He said it;” but a much worse woe to befall a man is to have every judgment controlled by an “I said it”—­to make a divinity of his own short-sightedness or passion-led aberration and explain the world in its honour.  There is hardly a more pitiable degradation than this for a man of high gifts.  Hence I cannot join with those who wish that Touchwood, being young enough to enter on public life, should get elected for Parliament and use his excellent abilities to serve his country in that conspicuous manner.  For hitherto, in the less momentous incidents of private life, his capricious temper has only produced the minor evil of inconsistency, and he is even greatly at ease in contradicting himself, provided he can contradict you, and disappoint any smiling expectation you may have shown that the impressions you are uttering are likely to meet with his sympathy, considering that the day before he himself gave you the example which your mind is following.  He is at least free from those fetters of self-justification which are the curse of parliamentary speaking, and what I rather desire for him is that he should produce the great book which he is generally pronounced capable of writing, and put his best self imperturbably on record for the advantage of society; because I should then have steady ground for bearing with his diurnal incalculableness, and could fix my gratitude as by a strong staple to that unvarying monumental service.  Unhappily, Touchwood’s great powers have been only so far manifested as to be believed in, not demonstrated.  Everybody rates them highly, and thinks that whatever he chose to do would be done in a first-rate manner.  Is it his love of disappointing complacent expectancy which has gone so far as to keep up this lamentable negation, and made him resolve not to write the comprehensive work which he would have written if nobody had expected it of him?

One can see that if Touchwood were to become a public man and take to frequent speaking on platforms or from his seat in the House, it would hardly be possible for him to maintain much integrity of opinion, or to avoid courses of partisanship which a healthy public sentiment would stamp with discredit.  Say that he were endowed with the purest honesty, it would inevitably be dragged captive by this mysterious, Protean bad temper.  There would be the fatal public necessity of justifying oratorical Temper which had got on its legs in its bitter mood and made insulting imputations, or of keeping up some decent show of consistency with opinions vented out of Temper’s contradictoriness.  And words would have to be followed up by acts of adhesion.

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Impressions of Theophrastus Such from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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