Impressions of Theophrastus Such eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 202 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.
These are the most delicate elements of our too easily perishable civilisation.  And here again I like to quote a French testimony.  Sainte Beuve, referring to a time of insurrectionary disturbance, says:  “Rien de plus prompt a baisser que la civilisation dans des crises comme celle-ci; on perd en trois semaines le resultat de plusieurs siecles.  La civilisation, la vie est une chose apprise et inventee, qu’on le sache bien:  ’Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes.’  Les hommes apres quelques annees de paix oublient trop cette verite:  ils arrivent a croire que la culture est chose innee, qu’elle est la meme chose que la nature.  La sauvagerie est toujours la a deux pas, et, des qu’on lache pied, elle recommence.”  We have been severely enough taught (if we were willing to learn) that our civilisation, considered as a splendid material fabric, is helplessly in peril without the spiritual police of sentiments or ideal feelings.  And it is this invisible police which we had need, as a community, strive to maintain in efficient force.  How if a dangerous “Swing” were sometimes disguised in a versatile entertainer devoted to the amusement of mixed audiences?  And I confess that sometimes when I see a certain style of young lady, who checks our tender admiration with rouge and henna and all the blazonry of an extravagant expenditure, with slang and bold brusquerie intended to signify her emancipated view of things, and with cynical mockery which she mistakes for penetration, I am sorely tempted to hiss out “Petroleuse!” It is a small matter to have our palaces set aflame compared with the misery of having our sense of a noble womanhood, which is the inspiration of a purifying shame, the promise of life—­penetrating affection, stained and blotted out by images of repulsiveness.  These things come—­not of higher education, but—­of dull ignorance fostered into pertness by the greedy vulgarity which reverses Peter’s visionary lesson and learns to call all things common and unclean.  It comes of debasing the moral currency.

The Tirynthians, according to an ancient story reported by Athenaeus, becoming conscious that their trick of laughter at everything and nothing was making them unfit for the conduct of serious affairs, appealed to the Delphic oracle for some means of cure.  The god prescribed a peculiar form of sacrifice, which would be effective if they could carry it through without laughing.  They did their best; but the flimsy joke of a boy upset their unaccustomed gravity, and in this way the oracle taught them that even the gods could not prescribe a quick cure for a long vitiation, or give power and dignity to a people who in a crisis of the public wellbeing were at the mercy of a poor jest.



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Impressions of Theophrastus Such from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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