“It is very generally so with us,” returned the Architect, “but it is not universal; and very likely the right taste and the proper application of it may be a peculiar art. In this case especially we have this great difficulty, that the monument must be something cheerful and yet commemorate a solemn subject; while its matter is melancholy, it must not itself be melancholy. As regards designs for monuments of all kinds, I have collected numbers of them, and I will take some opportunity of showing them to you; but at all times the fairest memorial of a man remains some likeness of himself. This better than anything else, will give a notion of what he was; it is the best text for many or for few notes, only it ought to be made when he is at his best age, and that is generally neglected; no one thinks of preserving forms while they are alive, and if it is done at all, it is done carelessly and incompletely; and then comes death; a cast is taken swiftly of the face; this mask is set upon a block of stone, and that is what is called a bust. How seldom is the artist in a position to put any real life into such things as these!”
“You have contrived,” said Charlotte, “without perhaps knowing it or wishing it, to lead the conversation altogether in my favor. The likeness of a man is quite independent; everywhere that it stands, it stands for itself, and we do not require it to mark the site of a particular grave. But I must acknowledge to you to having a strange feeling; even to likenesses I have a kind of disinclination. Whenever I see them they seem to be silently reproaching me. They point to something far away from us—gone from us; and they remind me how difficult it is to pay right honor to the present. If we think how many people we have seen and known, and consider how little we have been to them and how little they have been to us, it is no very pleasant reflection. We have met a man of genius without having enjoyed much with him—a learned man without having learnt from him—a traveler without having been instructed,—a man to love without having shown him any kindness.
“And, unhappily, this is not the case only with accidental meetings. Societies and families behave in the same way toward their dearest members, towns toward their worthiest citizens, people toward their most admirable princes, nations toward their most distinguished men.
“I have heard it asked why we heard nothing but good spoken of the dead, while of the living it is never without some exception. It should be answered, because from the former we have nothing any more to fear, while the latter may still, here or there, fall in our way. So unreal is our anxiety to preserve the memory of others—generally no more than a mere selfish amusement; and the real, holy, earnest feeling would be what should prompt us to be more diligent and assiduous in our attentions toward those who still are left to us.”