Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

Cash and Credit               177

and cannot, therefore, have been acquired here. From such
a world we come, every one of us, but some seem to have a
more living recollection of it than others. Perfect recollection
of it no man can have, for to put on flesh is to have all one's
other memories jarred beyond power of conscious recognition
And genius must put on flesh, for it is only by the hook and
crook of taint and flesh that tainted beings like ourselves
can apprehend it, only in and through flesh can it be made
manifest to us at all. The flesh and the shop will return
no matter with how many pitchforks we expel them, for we
cannot conceivably expel them thoroughly ; therefore it is
better not to be too hard upon them. And yet this same
flesh cloaks genius at the very time that it reveals it. It
seems as though the flesh must have been on and must have
gone clean off before genius can be discerned, and also that
we must stand a long way from it, for the world grows more
and more myopic as it grows older. And this brings another
trouble, for by the time the flesh has gone off it enough, and it
is far enough away for us to see it without glasses, the chances
are we shall have forgotten its very existence and lose the
wish to see at the very moment of becoming able to do so.
Hence there appears to be no remedy for the oft-repeated
complaint that the world knows nothing of its greatest men.
How can it be expected to do so ? And how can its greatest
men be expected to know more than a very little of the world?
At any rate, they seldom do, and it is just because they cannot
and do not that, if they ever happen to be found out at all,
they are recognised as the greatest and the world weeps and
wrings its hands that it cannot know more about them.

Lastly, if genius cannot be bought with money, still less
can it sell what it produces. The only price that can be
paid for genius is suffering, and this is the only wages it can
receive. The only work that has any considerable permanence
is written, more or less consciously, in the blood of the writer,
or in that of his or her forefathers. Genius is like money,
or, again, like crime, every one lias a little, if it be only a half-
penny, and he can beg or steal this much if he has not got it;
but those who have little are rarely very fond of millionaires.
People generally like and understand best those who are
of much about the same social standing and money status
as their own ; and so it is for the most part as between those