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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

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to aim all his morals against them. This very year a
lady (singular iconoclast!) proclaimed a crusade against
dolls ; and the racy sermon against lust is a feature of the
age. I venture to call such moralists insincere. At any
excess or perversion of a natural appetite, their lyre sounds
of itself with relishing denunciations ; but for all displays
of the truly diabolic—envy, malice, the mean lie, the mean
silence, the calumnious truth, the back-biter, the petty
tyrant, the peevish poisoner of family life—their standard
is quite different. These are wrong, they will admit, yet
somehow not so wrong ; there is no zeal in their assault on
them, no secret element of gusto warms up the sermon;
it is for things not wrong in themselves that they reserve
the choicest of their indignation. A man may naturally
disclaim all moral kinship with the Reverend Mr. Zola or
the hobgoblin old lady of the dolls ; for these are gross
and naked instances. And yet in each of us some similar
element resides. The sight of a pleasure in which we
cannot or else will not share moves us to a particular
impatience. It may be because we are envious, or because
we are sad, or because we dislike noise and romping—
being so refined, or because—being so philosophic—we
have an over weighing sense of life's gravity : at least, as
we go on in years, we are all tempted to frown upon our
neighbour's pleasures. People are nowadays so fond of
resisting temptations : here is one to be resisted. They
are fond of self-denial; here is a propensity that cannot
be too peremptorily denied. There is an idea abroad
among moral people that they should make their neigh-
bours good. One person I have to make good : myself.
But my duty to my neighbour is much more nearly
expressed by saying that I have to make him happy—if
I may.


Happiness and goodness, according to canting moralists,
stand in the relation of effect and cause. There was never
anything less proved or less probable : our happiness is
never in our own hands ; we inherit our constitution;
we stand buffet among friends and enemies ; we may be