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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"


memory with a lumber of words, one-half of which they
will forget before the week be out, your truant may learn
some really useful art : to play the fiddle, to know a good
cigar, or to speak with ease and opportunity to all varieties
of men. Many who have e plied their book diligently/
and know all about some one branch or another of accepted
lore, come out of the study with an ancient and owl-like
demeanour, and prove dry, stockish, and dyspeptic in all
the better and brighter parts of life. Many make a large
fortune who remain underbred and pathetically stupid to
the last. And meanwhile there goes the idler, who began
life along with themóby your leave, a different picture.
He has had time to take care of his health and Ms spirits ;
he has been a great deal in the open air, which is the most
salutary of all things for both body and mind; and if he
has never read the great Book in very recondite places,
he has dipped into it and skimmed it over to excellent
purpose. Might not the student afford some Hebrew
roots, and the business man some of his half-crowns, for
a share of the idler's knowledge of life at large, and Art
of Living ? Nay, and the idler has another and more
important quality than these. I mean his wisdom. He
who has much looked on at the childish satisfaction of
other people in their hobbies, will regard his own with only
a very ironical indulgence. He will not be heard among
the dogmatists. He will have a great and cool allowance
"for all sorts of people and opinions. If he finds no out-
of-the-way truths, he will identify himself with no very
burning falsehood. His way takes Mm along a by-road,
not much frequented, but very even and pleasant, wMch
is called Commonplace Lane, and leads to the Belvedere
of Common-sense. Thence he shall command an agree-
able, if no very noble prospect; and while others behold
the East and West, the Devil and the Sunrise, he will be
contentedly aware of a sort of morning hour upon all
sublunary tMngs, with an army of shadows running
speedily and in many different directions into the great
daylight of Eternity. The shadows and the generations,
the shrill doctors and the plangent wars, go by into ultimate
silence and emptiness ; but underneath all this, a man