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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

IDS      AN APOLOGY FOR IDLERS

may see, out of the Belvedere windows, much green and
peaceful landscape ; many firelit parlours ; good people
laughing, drinking, and making love as they did before
the Flood or the French Revolution ; and the old shepherd
telling his tale under the hawthorn.

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk
or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality;   and a
faculty for idleness  implies  a  catholic   appetite  and a
strong  sense  of  personal  identity.    There  is  a  sort of
dead-alive,   hackneyed  people  about,   who   are  scarcely
conscious of living except in the exercise of some con-
ventional occupation.    Bring these fellows into the country
or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine
for their desk or their study.    They have no curiosity;
they cannot give themselves over to random provocations ;
they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties
for its own sake ;   and unless Necessity lays about them
with a stick, they will even stand still.    It is no good
speaking to such folk :   they cannot be idle, their nature
is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a
sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling
in the gold-mill.     When they do not require to go to
office, when they are not hungry and have no mind to
drink, the whole breathing world is a blank to them.
If they have to wait an hour or so for a train, they fall
into a stupid trance with their eyes open.    To see them,,
you would suppose there was nothing to look at and no
one to speak with ; you would imagine they were paralysed
or alienated ;  and yet very possibly they are hard workers
in their own way, and have good eyesight for a flaw in
a deed or a turn of the market.    They have been to school
and college, but all the time they had their eye on the
medal;   they have gone about in the world and mixed
with clever people, but all the time they were thinking
of their own affairs.    As if a man's soul were not too
small to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed
theirs by a life of all work and no play;  until here they
are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of
all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub
against another, while they wait for the train.    Before