The world is sometimes surprised to see extraordinary proofs of moral influence exercised by persons who never planned, never aimed, to obtain such influence,—nay, whose conduct is never regulated by any fixed aim for its attainment; the fact is, that those characters are composed of truth and love;—truth, which prevents the assumption even of virtues which are not natural, thereby adding to the influence of such as are; love, the most contagious of all moral contagions, the regenerating principle of the world!
The virtue which mainly contributes to the support of consistency—without which, in fact, consistency cannot exist—is simplicity: consistency of conduct can never be maintained by characters in any degree double or sophisticated, for it is not of simplicity as opposed to craft, but of simplicity as opposed to sophistication, that I would here speak, and rather as the Christian virtue, single-mindedness; the desire to be, opposed to the wish to appear. We have seen how rarely influence can be gained where no faith can be yielded; now an unsimple character can never inspire faith or trust. People do not always analyze mental phenomena sufficiently to know the reason of this fact, but no one will dispute the fact itself. It is true there are persons who have the power of conciliating confidence of which they are unworthy, but it is only because (like Castruccio Castrucciani) they are such exquisite dissemblers, that their affection of simplicity has temporarily the effect of simplicity itself. This power of successful assumption is, fortunately, confined to very few, and the pretenders to unreal virtues and the utterer of assumed sentiments are only ill-paid labourers, working hard to reap no harvest-fruits.
An objection slightly advanced before, may here naturally occur again, and may be answered more fully, viz. the opposition of the conventional forms of society to entire simplicity of thought and action, and consequently to influence. The influence which conventionalism has over principle is to be utterly disclaimed, but its having an injurious influence over manner is far more easily obviated; so easily, indeed, that it may be doubted whether there be not more simplicity in compliance than in opposition. Originality, either of thought or behaviour, is most uncommon, and only found in minds above, or in minds below, the ordinary standard; neither is this peculiar feature of society in itself a blame-worthy one: it arises out of the constitution of man, naturally imitative, gregarious, and desirous of approbation. Nothing would be gained by the abolition of these forms, for they are representatives of a good spirit; the spirit, it is true, is too often not there, but it would be better to call it back than to abolish the form. We have an opportunity of judging how far it would be convenient or agreeable to do so, in the conduct of some soi-disant contemners of forms; we perceive that such contempt is equally the offspring of selfishness with slavish regard: it is only the exchange of the selfishness of vanity for the selfishness of indolence and pride, and the world is the loser by the exchange. Hypocrisy has been said to be the homage which vice pays to virtue. Conventional forms may, with justice, be called the homage which selfishness pays to benevolence.