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.”