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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

106      AN APOLOGY FOE IDLERS

* Nay, it is no language.'

' Is it a trade ? '

' Nor a trade neither.*

' Why, then, what is't ? 5

k Indeed, sir, as time may soon come for me to go upon
Pilgrimage, I am desirous to note what is commonly done
by persons in my case, and where are the ugliest Sloughs
and Thickets on the Road ; as also, what manner of staff
is of the best service, Moreover, I lie here, by this water,
to learn by root-of-heart a lesson which my master teaches
me to call Peace, or Contentment.3

Hereupon Mr. Worldly Wiseman was much commoved
with passion, and shaking his cane with a very threatful
countenance, broke forth upon this wise: ' Learning,
quotha ! ' said he ; * I would have all such rogues scourged
by the Hangman ! '

And so he would go his way, ruffling out his cravat
with a crackle of starch, like a turkey when it spread its
feathers.

Now this, of Mr. Wiseman's, is the common opinion.
A fact is not called a fact, but a piece of gossip, if it does
not fall into one of your scholastic categories. An inquiry
must be in some acknowledged direction, with a name to
go by ; or else you are not inquiring at all, only lounging ;
and the workhouse is too good for you. It is supposed
that all knowledge is at the bottom of a well, or the far
end of a telescope. Sainte-Beuve, as he grew older, came
to regard all experience as a single great book, in which
to study for a few years ere we go hence, and it seemed
all one to him whether you should read in Chapter xx,
which is the differential calculus, or in Chapter xxxix,
which is hearing the band play in the gardens. As a
matter of fact, an intelligent person, looking out of his
eyes and hearkening in his -ears, with a smile on his face
all the time, will get more true education than many another
in a life of heroic vigils. There is certainly some chill and
arid knowledge to be found upon the summits of formal
and laborious science ; but it is all round about you, and
for the trouble of looking, that you will acquire the warm
and palpitating facts of life. While others are filling their