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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

BOOKS WHICH HAVE INFLUENCED ME     9

This brings us by a natural transition to a very noble
book—the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The dispas-
sionate gravity, the noble forgetfulness of self, the tender-
ness of others, that are there expressed and were practised
on so great a scale in the life of its writer, make this book a
book quite by itself. No one can read it and not be moved.
Yet it scarcely or rarely appeals to the feelings—those
very mobile, those not very trusty parts of man. Its
address lies further back : its lesson comes more deeply
home ; when you have read, you carry away with you a
memory of the man himself; it is as though you had
touched a loyal hand, looked into brave eyes and made
a noble friend; there is another bond on you thence-
forward, binding you to life and to the love of virtue.

Wordsworth should perhaps come next. Every one has
been influenced by Wordsworth, and it is hard to tell
precisely how. A certain innocence, a rugged austerity
of joy, a sight of the stars, ' the silence that is in the lonely
hills/ something of the cold thrill of dawn, cling to his
work and give it a particular address to what is best in
us. I do not know that you learn a lesson; you need
not—Mill did not—agree with any one of Ms beliefs ; and
yet the spell is cast. Such are the best teachers ; a dogma
learned is only a new error—the old one was perhaps as
good ; but a spirit communicated is a perpetual possession.
These best teachers climb beyond teaching to the plane
of art; it is themselves, and what is best in themselves,
that they communicate.

I should never forgive myself if I forget The Egoist.
It is art, if you like, but it belongs purely to didactic art,
and from all the novels I have read (and I have read
thousands) stands in a j5lace by itself. Here is a Nathan
for the modern David ; here is a book to send the blood
into men's faces. Satire, the angry picture of human
faults, is not great art, we can all be angry with our neigh-
bour, what we want is to be shown, not his defects, of
which we are too conscious, but his merits, to which we
are too blind. And The Egoist is a satire, so much must
be allowed ; but it is a satire of a singular quality, which
tells you nothing of that obvious mote, which is engaged