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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 155 pages of information about Backlog Studies.

III

We may have a testimonial class in time, a sort of nobility here in America, made so by popular gift, the members of which will all be able to show some stick or piece of plated ware or massive chain, “of which they have been the recipients.”  In time it may be a distinction not to belong to it, and it may come to be thought more blessed to give than to receive.  For it must have been remarked that it is not always to the cleverest and the most amiable and modest man that the deputation comes with the inevitable ice-pitcher (and “salver to match"), which has in it the magic and subtle quality of making the hour in which it is received the proudest of one’s life.  There has not been discovered any method of rewarding all the deserving people and bringing their virtues into the prominence of notoriety.  And, indeed, it would be an unreasonable world if there had, for its chief charm and sweetness lie in the excellences in it which are reluctantly disclosed; one of the chief pleasures of living is in the daily discovery of good traits, nobilities, and kindliness both in those we have long known and in the chance passenger whose way happens for a day to lie with ours.  The longer I live the more I am impressed with the excess of human kindness over human hatred, and the greater willingness to oblige than to disoblige that one meets at every turn.  The selfishness in politics, the jealousy in letters, the bickering in art, the bitterness in theology, are all as nothing compared to the sweet charities, sacrifices, and deferences of private life.  The people are few whom to know intimately is to dislike.  Of course you want to hate somebody, if you can, just to keep your powers of discrimination bright, and to save yourself from becoming a mere mush of good-nature; but perhaps it is well to hate some historical person who has been dead so long as to be indifferent to it.  It is more comfortable to hate people we have never seen.  I cannot but think that Judas Iscariot has been of great service to the world as a sort of buffer for moral indignation which might have made a collision nearer home but for his utilized treachery.  I used to know a venerable and most amiable gentleman and scholar, whose hospitable house was always overrun with wayside ministers, agents, and philanthropists, who loved their fellow-men better than they loved to work for their living; and he, I suspect, kept his moral balance even by indulgence in violent but most distant dislikes.  When I met him casually in the street, his first salutation was likely to be such as this:  “What a liar that Alison was!  Don’t you hate him?” And then would follow specifications of historical inveracity enough to make one’s blood run cold.  When he was thus discharged of his hatred by such a conductor, I presume he had not a spark left for those whose mission was partly to live upon him and other generous souls.

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