The pitiful part of this inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is, however, that most men interpret it to mean the pursuit of wealth, and strive for that always, postponing being happy until they get a fortune, and if they are lucky in that, find at the end that the happiness has somehow eluded them, that; in short, they have not cultivated that in themselves that alone can bring happiness. More than that, they have lost the power of the enjoyment of the essential pleasures of life. I think that the woman in the Scriptures who out of her poverty put her mite into the contribution-box got more happiness out of that driblet of generosity and self-sacrifice than some men in our day have experienced in founding a university.
And how fares it with the intellectual man? To be a selfish miner of learning, for self-gratification only, is no nobler in reality than to be a miser of money. And even when the scholar is lavish of his knowledge in helping an ignorant world, he may find that if he has made his studies as a pursuit of happiness he has missed his object. Much knowledge increases the possibility of enjoyment, but also the possibility of sorrow. If intellectual pursuits contribute to an enlightened and altogether admirable character, then indeed has the student found the inner springs of happiness. Otherwise one cannot say that the wise man is happier than the ignorant man.
In fine, and in spite of the political injunction, we need to consider that happiness is an inner condition, not to be raced after. And what an advance in our situation it would be if we could get it into our heads here in this land of inalienable rights that the world would turn round just the same if we stood still and waited for the daily coming of our Lord!
Is the divorce of Literature and the Stage complete, or is it still only partial? As the lawyers say, is it a ‘vinculo’, or only a ’mensa et thoro?’ And if this divorce is permanent, is it a good thing for literature or the stage? Is the present condition of the stage a degeneration, as some say, or is it a natural evolution of an art independent of literature?
How long is it since a play has been written and accepted and played which has in it any so-called literary quality or is an addition to literature? And what is dramatic art as at present understood and practiced by the purveyors of plays for the public? If any one can answer these questions, he will contribute something to the discussion about the tendency of the modern stage.
Every one recognizes in the “good old plays” which are occasionally “revived” both a quality and an intention different from anything in most contemporary productions. They are real dramas, the interest of which depends upon sentiment, upon an exhibition of human nature, upon the interaction of varied character, and upon plot, and we recognize in them a certain literary art. They can be read with pleasure. Scenery and mechanical contrivance may heighten the effects, but they are not absolute essentials.