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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

xx       INTRODUCTION:  AN APPRECIATION

a man should stop his ears against paralysing terror, and
run the race that is set before him with single mind.'
c By all means begin your folio ; even if the doctor does
not give you a year, even if he hesitates about a month,
make one brave push and see what can be accomplished
in a week. It is not only in finished undertakings that
we ought to honour useful labour. A spirit goes out of the
man who means execution, which outlives the most
untimely ending.5 4 To travel hopefully is a better thing
than to arrive, and the true success is to labour,' is another
fine saying from El Dorado. * There is no cutting of the
Gordian knots of life ; each must be smilingly unravelled.'
The other article of faith in the Stevensonian creed is
Charity. ' We are not damned for doing wrong, but for
not doing right; Christ would never hear of negative
morality.' ' To be honest, to be kind—to earn a little and
to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier
for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary
and not be embittered, to keep a few friends but these
without capitulation—above all, on the same grim condition,
to keep friends with himself—here is a task for all that a
man has of fortitude and delicacy.5 And the conclusion
of all his teaching is summed up in the Christmas /Sermon.
e Life is not designed to minister to a man's vanity. . . .
When the time comes that he should go, there need be
few illusions left about himself. Here lies one who meant
well, tried a little, failed much: - surely that may be his
epitaph, of which he need not be ashamed. . . . Give him a
march with his old bones ; there, out of the glorious sun-
coloured earth, out of the day and the dust and the
ecstasy—there goes another Faithful Failure !' Stevenson
has been called an incurable moralist. And such to a
certain extent he is. ' He was fond of preaching, so am
I,' he says of his grandfather. ' I would rise from the
dead to preach,' he laughingly declares. Yet it is a
wholesome, manly, noble creed; there is nothing sancti-
monious or priggish about it. Even morality, as such,
does not claim the foremost place in it. ' If your morals
make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong,' is a
saying which would have shocked an elder generation