Impressions of Theophrastus Such eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Impressions of Theophrastus Such.
of indignation and scorn, which are the proper scourges of wrong-doing and meanness, and which should continually feed the wholesome restraining power of public opinion.  I respect the horsewhip when applied to the back of Cruelty, and think that he who applies it is a more perfect human being because his outleap of indignation is not checked by a too curious reflection on the nature of guilt—­a more perfect human being because he more completely incorporates the best social life of the race, which can never be constituted by ideas that nullify action.  This is the essence of Dante’s sentiment (it is painful to think that he applies it very cruelly)—­

  “E cortesia fu, lui esser villano"[1]—­

and it is undeniable that a too intense consciousness of one’s kinship with all frailties and vices undermines the active heroism which battles against wrong.

But certainly nature has taken care that this danger should not at present be very threatening.  One could not fairly describe the generality of one’s neighbours as too lucidly aware of manifesting in their own persons the weaknesses which they observe in the rest of her Majesty’s subjects; on the contrary, a hasty conclusion as to schemes of Providence might lead to the supposition that one man was intended to correct another by being most intolerant of the ugly quality or trick which he himself possesses.  Doubtless philosophers will be able to explain how it must necessarily be so, but pending the full extension of the a priori method, which will show that only blockheads could expect anything to be otherwise, it does seem surprising that Heloisa should be disgusted at Laura’s attempts to disguise her age, attempts which she recognises so thoroughly because they enter into her own practice; that Semper, who often responds at public dinners and proposes resolutions on platforms, though he has a trying gestation of every speech and a bad time for himself and others at every delivery, should yet remark pitilessly on the folly of precisely the same course of action in Ubique; that Aliquis, who lets no attack on himself pass unnoticed, and for every handful of gravel against his windows sends a stone in reply, should deplore the ill-advised retorts of Quispiam, who does not perceive that to show oneself angry with an adversary is to gratify him.  To be unaware of our own little tricks of manner or our own mental blemishes and excesses is a comprehensible unconsciousness; the puzzling fact is that people should apparently take no account of their deliberate actions, and should expect them to be equally ignored by others.  It is an inversion of the accepted order:  there it is the phrases that are official and the conduct or privately manifested sentiment that is taken to be real; here it seems that the practice is taken to be official and entirely nullified by the verbal representation which contradicts it.  The thief making a vow to heaven of full restitution and whispering some reservations, expecting

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Impressions of Theophrastus Such from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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