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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.
need for a change in legislation, being shared by all his neighbours in trade, ceased to be simply selfish, and raised him to a sense of common injury and common benefit.  True, if the law could have been changed for the benefit of his particular business, leaving the cotton trade in general in a sorry condition while he prospered, Spike might not have thought that result intolerably unjust; but the nature of things did not allow of such a result being contemplated as possible; it allowed of an enlarged market for Spike only through the enlargement of his neighbours’ market, and the Possible is always the ultimate master of our efforts and desires.  Spike was obliged to contemplate a general benefit, and thus became public-spirited in spite of himself.  Or rather, the nature of things transmuted his active egoism into a demand for a public benefit.  Certainly if Spike had been born a marquis he could not have had the same chance of being useful as a political element.  But he might have had the same appearance, have been equally null in conversation, sceptical as to the reality of pleasure, and destitute of historical knowledge; perhaps even dimly disliking Jesuitism as a quality in Catholic minds, or regarding Bacon as the inventor of physical science.  The depths of middle-aged gentlemen’s ignorance will never be known, for want of public examinations in this branch.

VIII.

THE WATCH-DOG OF KNOWLEDGE

Mordax is an admirable man, ardent in intellectual work, public-spirited, affectionate, and able to find the right words in conveying ingenious ideas or elevated feeling.  Pity that to all these graces he cannot add what would give them the utmost finish—­the occasional admission that he has been in the wrong, the occasional frank welcome of a new idea as something not before present to his mind!  But no:  Mordax’s self-respect seems to be of that fiery quality which demands that none but the monarchs of thought shall have an advantage over him, and in the presence of contradiction or the threat of having his notions corrected, he becomes astonishingly unscrupulous and cruel for so kindly and conscientious a man.

“You are fond of attributing those fine qualities to Mordax,” said Acer, the other day, “but I have not much belief in virtues that are always requiring to be asserted in spite of appearances against them.  True fairness and goodwill show themselves precisely where his are conspicuously absent.  I mean, in recognising claims which the rest of the world are not likely to stand up for.  It does not need much love of truth and justice in me to say that Aldebaran is a bright star, or Isaac Newton the greatest of discoverers; nor much kindliness in me to want my notes to be heard above the rest in a chorus of hallelujahs to one already crowned.  It is my way to apply tests.  Does the man who has the ear of the public use his advantage tenderly towards poor fellows who may be hindered of their due if he treats their pretensions with scorn?  That is my test of his justice and benevolence.”

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