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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

18                  ON FALLING IN LOVE

Certainly, whatever it may be with regard to the world
at large, this idea of beneficent pleasure is true as between
the sweethearts.    To do good and communicate is the
lover's grand intention.    It is the happiness of the other
that makes his own most intense gratification.    It is not
possible to disentangle the different emotions, the pride,
humility, pity, and passion, which are excited by a look of
happy love or an unexpected caress.    To make one's self
beautiful, to dress the hair, to excel in talk, to do anything
and all things that puff out the character and attributes
and make them imposing in the eyes of others, is not only
to magnify one's self, but to offer the most delicate homage
at the same time.    And it is in this latter intention that
they are done by lovers ;  for the essence of love is kind-
ness :  kindness, so to speak, run mad and become impor-
tunate and violent.    Vanity in a merely personal sense
exists no longer.    The lover takes a perilous pleasure in
privately displaying his weak points and having them,
one after another, accepted and condoned.    He wishes to
be assured that he is not loved for this or that good quality,
but for himself, or something as like himself as he can
contrive to set forward.    For, although it may have been
a very difficult thing to paint the marriage of Cana, or
write the fourth act of Antony and Cleopatra, there is a
more difficult piece of art before every one in this world
who cares to set about explaining his own character to
others.   Words and acts are easily wrenched from their
true significance;   and they are all the language we have
to come and go upon.    A pitiful job we make of it, as a
rule.    For better or worse, people mistake our meaning
and take our emotions at a wrong valuation.    And gener-
ally, we rest pretty content with our failures;  we are
content to be misapprehended by crackling flirts ;   but,
when once a man is moonstruck with this affection of love,
he makes it a point of honour to clear such dubieties away.
He cannot have the Best of her Sex misled upon a point
of this importance ;   and his pride revolts at being loved
in a mistake.

He discovers a great reluctance to return on former
periods of his life.   To all that has not been shared with