Impressions of Theophrastus Such eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.

But let us be just enough to admit that there may be old-young coxcombs as well as old-young coquettes.

XIII.

HOW WE COME TO GIVE OURSELVES FALSE TESTIMONIALS, AND BELIEVE IN THEM.

It is my way when I observe any instance of folly, any queer habit, any absurd illusion, straightway to look for something of the same type in myself, feeling sure that amid all differences there will be a certain correspondence; just as there is more or less correspondence in the natural history even of continents widely apart, and of islands in opposite zones.  No doubt men’s minds differ in what we may call their climate or share of solar energy, and a feeling or tendency which is comparable to a panther in one may have no more imposing aspect than that of a weasel in another:  some are like a tropical habitat in which the very ferns cast a mighty shadow, and the grasses are a dry ocean in which a hunter may be submerged; others like the chilly latitudes in which your forest-tree, fit elsewhere to prop a mine, is a pretty miniature suitable for fancy potting.  The eccentric man might be typified by the Australian fauna, refuting half our judicious assumptions of what nature allows.  Still, whether fate commanded us to thatch our persons among the Eskimos or to choose the latest thing in tattooing among the Polynesian isles, our precious guide Comparison would teach us in the first place by likeness, and our clue to further knowledge would be resemblance to what we already know.  Hence, having a keen interest in the natural history of my inward self, I pursue this plan I have mentioned of using my observation as a clue or lantern by which I detect small herbage or lurking life; or I take my neighbour in his least becoming tricks or efforts as an opportunity for luminous deduction concerning the figure the human genus makes in the specimen which I myself furnish.

Introspection which starts with the purpose of finding out one’s own absurdities is not likely to be very mischievous, yet of course it is not free from dangers any more than breathing is, or the other functions that keep us alive and active.  To judge of others by oneself is in its most innocent meaning the briefest expression for our only method of knowing mankind; yet, we perceive, it has come to mean in many cases either the vulgar mistake which reduces every man’s value to the very low figure at which the valuer himself happens to stand; or else, the amiable illusion of the higher nature misled by a too generous construction of the lower.  One cannot give a recipe for wise judgment:  it resembles appropriate muscular action, which is attained by the myriad lessons in nicety of balance and of aim that only practice can give.  The danger of the inverse procedure, judging of self by what one observes in others, if it is carried on with much impartiality and keenness of discernment, is that it has a laming effect, enfeebling the energies

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Impressions of Theophrastus Such from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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