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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

104              AN  APOLOGY   tfOK  IULKKJS

indifferent to your achievement. Hence physicists con-
demn the unphysical; financiers have only a superficial
toleration for those who know little of stocks ; literary
persons despise the unlettered ; and people of all pursuits
combine to disparage those who have none.

But though this is one difficulty of the subject, it is
not the greatest. You could not be put in prison for
speaking against industry, but you can be sent to Coventry
for speaking like a fool. The greatest difficulty with most
subjects is to do them well; therefore, please to remember
this is an apology. It is certain that much may be
judiciously argued in favour of diligence ; only there is
something to be said against it, and that is what, on the
present occasion, I have to say. To state one argument is
not necessarily to be deaf to all others, and that a man
has written a book of travels in Montenegro, is no reason'
why he should never have been to Richmond.

It is surely beyond a doubt that people should be a
good deal idle in youth. For though here and there a
Lord Macaulay may escape from school honours with
all Ms wits about him, most boys pay so dear for their
medals that they never afterwards have a shot in their
locker, and begin the world bankrupt. And the same
holds true during all the time a lad is educating himseK,
or suffering others to educate him. It must have been
a very foolish old gentleman who addressed Johnson at
Oxford in these words : ' Young man, ply your book
diligently now, and acquire a stock of knowledge ; for
when years come upon you, you will find that poring
upon books will be but an irksome task.' The old gentle-
man seems to have been unaware that many other things
besides reading grow irksome, and not a few become
impossible, by the time a man has to use spectacles and
cannot walk witEout a stickA JBooks are good enough in
their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute
for life.' It seems a pity to sit Eke the Lady of Shalott,
peering into a mirror, with your back turned on all the
bustle and glamour of reality,-t And if a man reads very
hard, as the old anecdote reminds us, he will have little
time for thought.