Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

176                Cash and Credit

but genius will have no small scales ; it is even more immoral
for a man to be too far in front than to lag too far behind.
The only absolute morality is absolute stagnation, but this
is unpractical, so a peck of change is permitted to every one,
but it must be a peck only, whereas genius would have ever
so many sacks full. There is a myth among some Eastern
nation that at the birth of Genius an unkind fairy marred
all the good gifts of the other fairies by depriving it of the
power of knowing where to stop.

Nor does genius care more about money than about trouble.
It is no respecter of time, trouble, money or persons, the
four things round which human affairs turn most persistently.
It will not go a hair's breadth from its way either to embrace
fortune or to avoid her. It is, like Love, " too young to
know the worth of gold/' * It knows, indeed, both love and
hate, but not as we know them, for it will fly for help to
its bitterest foe, or attack its dearest friend in the interests
of the art it serves.

Yet this genius, which so despises the world, is the only
thing of which the world is permanently enamoured, and the
more it flouts the world, the more the world worships it,
when it has once well killed it in the flesh. Who can under-
stand this eternal crossing in love and contradiction in terms
which warps the woof of actions and things from the atom
to the universe ? The more a man despises time, trouble,
money, persons, place and everything on which the world;
insists as most essential to salvation, the more pious will
this same world hold him to have been. What a fund of
universal unconscious scepticism must underlie the world's
opinions ! For we are all alike in our worship of genius that
has passed through the fire. Nor can this universal instinctive
consent be explained otherwise than as the welling up of a
spring whose sources lie deep in the conviction that great
as this world is, it masks a greater wherein its wisdom is
folly and which we know as blind men know where the sun
is shining, certainly, but not distinctly.

This should in itself be enough to prove that such a world
exists, but there is still another proof in the fact that so many
come among us showing instinctive and ineradicable famili-
arity with a state of things which has no counterpart here,
* Narcissus, " Should Riches mate with. Love,"