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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Father Payne.

“But isn’t it possible,” said Vincent, “for a man to get the best out of life for himself by a sort of passion for exact knowledge—­like the man in the Grammarian’s funeral, I mean?”

“Personally,” said Father Payne, “I always think that Browning did a lot of harm by that poem.  He was glorifying a real vice, I think.  If the Grammarian had said to himself, ’There is all this nasty work to be done by someone; I can do it, and I can save other people having to waste their time over it, by doing it once and for all,’ it would have been different.  But I think he was partly indulging a poor sort of vanity by just determining to know what no other man knew.  The point of work is twofold.  It is partly good for the worker, to tranquillise his life and to reduce it to a certain order and discipline; but you mustn’t do it only for the sake of your own tranquillity, any more than the artist must work for the sake of luxuriating in his own emotions.  You must have something to give away:  you must have some idea of combination, of helping other people to find each other and to understand each other.  It is vicious to isolate yourself for your own satisfaction.  Fitzherbert and the Grammarian were really misers.  They just accumulated, and enjoyed the pleasure of having their own minds clear.  That doesn’t seem to me in itself to be a fine thing at all.  It is simply the oldest of temptations, ’Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’  That is the danger of the critical mind, that it says, ’I will know within myself what is good,’ The only excuse for the critical mind is to help people not to be taken in by what is bad.  It is better to be like Plato and Ruskin, to make mistakes, to have prejudices, to be unfair, even to be silly, because at least you encourage people to think that life is interesting—­and that is about as much as any of us can do.”

LII

OF COMPANIONSHIP

“Isn’t it rather odd,” said someone to Father Payne after dinner, “that great men have as a rule rather preferred the company of their inferiors to the company of their equals?”

“I don’t know,” said Father Payne; “I think it’s rather natural!  By Jove, I know that a very little of the society of a really superior person goes a very long way with me.  No, I think it is what one would expect.  When the great man is at work, he is on the strain and doing the lofty business for all he is worth; when he is at leisure, he doesn’t want any more strain—­he has done his full share.”

“But take the big groups,” said someone, “like the Wordsworth set, or the pre-Raphaelite set—­or take any of the great biographies—­the big men of any time seem always to have been mutual friends and correspondents.  You have letters to and from Ruskin from and to all the great men of his day.”

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