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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"


if a person cannot be happy without remaining idle, idle he
should remain. It is a revolutionary precept; but thanks
to hunger and the workhouse, one not easily to be abused ;
and within practical limits, it is one of the most incon-
testable truths in the whole Body of Morality. Look at
one of your industrious fellows for a moment, I beseech
you. He sows hurry and reaps indigestion ; he puts a
vast deal of activity out to interest, and receives a large
measure of nervous derangement in return. Either he
absents himself entirely from all fellowship, and lives a
recluse in a garret, with carpet slippers and a leaden
inkpot; or he conies among people swiftly and bitterly, in
a contraction of his whole nervous system, to discharge
some temper before he returns to work. I do not care
how much or how well he works, this fellow is an evil
feature in other people's lives. They would be happier if
he were dead. They could easier do without Ms services
in the Circumlocution Office, than they can tolerate his
fractious spirits. He poisons life at the well-head. It is
better to be beggared out of hand by a scapegrace nephew,
than daily hag-ridden by a peevish uncle.

And what, in God's name, is all this pother about ?
For what cause do they embitter their own and other
people's lives ? That a man should publish three or
thirty articles a year, that he should finish or not finish
his great allegorical picture, are questions of little interest
to the world. The ranks of life are full; and although a
thousand fall, there are always some to go into the breach.
When they told Joan of Arc she should be at home minding
women's work, she answered there were plenty to spin
and wash. And so, even with your own rare gifts ! When
nature is ' so careless of the single life,' why should we
coddle ourselves into the fancy that our own is of excep-
tional importance ? Suppose Shakespeare had been
knocked on the head some dark night in Sir Thomas Lucy's
preserves, the world would have wagged on better or
worse, the pitcher gone to the well, the scythe to the
conij and the student to bis book ; and no one been any
the wiser of the loss. There are not many works extant,
if you look the alternative all over, which are worth the