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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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cares he for all this ? Being a true lover of living, a fellow
with something pushing and spontaneous in his inside, he
must, like any other soldier, in any other stirring, deadly
warfare, push on at his best pace until he touch the goal.
' A peerage or Westminster Abbey! ' cried Nelson in his
bright, boyish, heroic manner. These are great incentives ;
nor for any of these, but for the plain satisfaction of
living, of being about their business in some sort or other,
do the brave, serviceable men of every nation tread down
the nettle danger, and pass flyingly over all the stumbling-
blocks of prudence. Think of the heroism of Johnson,
think of that superb indifference to mortal limitation that
set him upon his dictionary and carried him through
triumphantly until the end! Who, if he were wisely
considerate of things at large, would ever embark upon any
work much more considerable than a halfpenny postcard ?
Who would project a serial novel, after Thackeray and
Dickens had each fallen in mid-course ? Who would
find heart enough to begin to live, if he dallied with the
consideration of death ?

And after all, what sorry and pitiful quibbling all this
is! To forego all the issues of living in a parlour with a
regulated temperature—as if it were not to die a hundred
times over, and for ten years at a stretch ! As if" it were
not to die in one's own lifetime, and without even the
sad immunities of death ! As if it were not to die, and
yet be the patient spectators of our own pitiable change !
The Permanent Possibility is preserved, but the sensations
carefully held at arm's length, as if one kept a photographic
plate in a dark chamber. It is better to lose health like a
spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. It is better to
live and be done with it than to die daily in the sick-room.
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. All who have meant good work with
their whole hearts, have done good work, although they