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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

144                                NOTES

XV
AN  APOLOGY  FOR  IDLERS

This is one of the most delightful of Stevenson's essays in the
lighter vein. Its humour is characteristically Stevensonian. Like
aU his best work, it is really autobiographical. At school and
college he was ' a pattern of idleness '—that is to say, he was
educating himself in his own way. Stevenson is merely repeating
In his bantering manner what Wordsworth tells us more solemnly
about * the Education of Nature ' :

One impulse from a vernal wood,
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good.
Than all the sages can.

Enough of Science and of Art,

Close up those barren leaves !

Come forth, and bring with you a heart,

That watches and receives.

Only Stevenson puts it in another way. * Extreme busyness,'
he says with a characteristic epigram, ' is a symptom of deficient
vitality. A faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite, and a
strong sense of personal identity.' This is the true ' Art of Living.'

I6se-respeetabiiity, * high treason' against respectability, a pun
on lese-majeste.

gasconade. Bragging. D'Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac
were Gascons.

Diogenes. The founder of the Cynic sect, whose motto was
* Self-sufficiency.' According to popular tradition, he lived half-
naked in a tub, and when asked by Alexander the Great what he
could do for him, he replied c Don't stand between me and the
sunlight.' Alexander remarked that ' if he were not Alexander,"
he would wish to be Diogenes.'

Rome. After the battle of the Allia, 390 B.C., when Rome was
sacked by the Gauls.

sent to Coventry, boycotted. The saying arose from the treat-
ment accorded by the people of Coventry to the soldiers at one time
billeted on them against their wishes.

' Lady of Shalott * in Tennyson's well-known poem.

Emphyteusis, Stillicide, were terms picked up by Stevenson
at his lectures on Roman Law. The joke is that Emphyteusis
really means copy-hold, and Stillicide water falling from the eaves
of a house !

Balzae (1799-1858), author of the Comidie Humaine, a realistic
but relentless series of pictures of French life. Like Dickens, but
in another sense, he goes to the streets for his models.

Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Stevenson parodies his old favourite,
The Pilgrim's Progress.

Scholastic categories.   Classifications adopted by the mediaeval