The fire-tender. It is not altogether the not minding their own business. Nobody does that. The usual explanation is, that people with one idea are tedious. But that is not all of it. For few persons have more than one idea,—ministers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, manufacturers, merchants,—they all think the world they live in is the central one.
Mandeville. And you might add authors. To them nearly all the life of the world is in letters, and I suppose they would be astonished if they knew how little the thoughts of the majority of people are occupied with books, and with all that vast thought circulation which is the vital current of the world to book-men. Newspapers have reached their present power by becoming unliterary, and reflecting all the interests of the world.
The mistress. I have noticed one thing, that the most popular persons in society are those who take the world as it is, find the least fault, and have no hobbies. They are always wanted to dinner.
The young lady. And the other kind always appear to me to want a dinner.
The fire-tender. It seems to me that the real reason why reformers and some philanthropists are unpopular is, that they disturb our serenity and make us conscious of our own shortcomings. It is only now and then that a whole people get a spasm of reformatory fervor, of investigation and regeneration. At other times they rather hate those who disturb their quiet.
Our next door. Professional reformers and philanthropists are insufferably conceited and intolerant.
The mistress. Everything depends upon the spirit in which a reform or a scheme of philanthropy is conducted.
Mandeville. I attended a protracted convention of reformers of a certain evil, once, and had the pleasure of taking dinner with a tableful of them. It was one of those country dinners accompanied with green tea. Every one disagreed with every one else, and you would n’t wonder at it, if you had seen them. They were people with whom good food wouldn’t agree. George Thompson was expected at the convention, and I remember that there was almost a cordiality in the talk about him, until one sallow brother casually mentioned that George took snuff,—when a chorus of deprecatory groans went up from the table. One long-faced maiden in spectacles, with purple ribbons in her hair, who drank five cups of tea by my count, declared that she was perfectly disgusted, and did n’t want to hear him speak. In the course of the meal the talk ran upon the discipline of children, and how to administer punishment. I was quite taken by the remark of a thin, dyspeptic man who summed up the matter by growling out in a harsh, deep bass voice, “Punish ’em in love!” It sounded as if he had said, “Shoot ’em on the spot!”