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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

202         Unprofessional Sermons

use. Job contains some fine passages, and so do some of
the Psalms; but the Psalms generally are poor and, for the
most part, querulous, spiteful and introspective into the
bargain. Mudie would not take thirteen copies of the lot
if they were to appear now for the first time—unless indeed
their royal authorship were to arouse an adventitious interest
in them, or unless the author were a rich man who played
his cards judiciously with the reviewers. As for the prophets
—we know what appears to have been the opinion formed
concerning them by those who should have been best ac-
quainted with them ; I am no judge as to the merits of the
controversy between them and their fellow-countrymen,
but I have read their works and am of opinion that they
will not hold their own against such masterpieces of modern
literature as, we will say, The Pilgyim's Progress, Robinson
Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels or Tom Jones. " Whether there
be prophecies/' exclaims the Apostle, " they shall fail."
On the whole I should say that Isaiah and Jeremiah must
be held to have failed.

I would join issue with Mr. Matthew Arnold on yet another
point. I understand him to imply that righteousness should
be a man's highest aim in life. I do not like setting up
righteousness, nor yet anything else, as the highest aim in
life ; a man should have any number of little aims about
which he should be conscious and for which he should have
names, but he should have neither name for, nor consciousness
concerning the main aim of his life. Whatever we do we
must try and do it rightly—this is obvious—but righteousness
implies something much more than this : it conveys to our
minds not only the desire to get whatever we have taken
in hand as nearly right as possible, but also the general
reference of our lives to the supposed will of an unseen but
supreme power. Granted that there is such a power, and
granted that we should obey its will, we are the more likely
to do this the less we concern ourselves about the matter
and the more we confine our attention to the things immedi-
ately round about us which seem, so to speak, entrusted to
us as the natural and legitimate sphere of our activity.
I believe a man will get the most useful information on these
matters from modern European sources; next to these he
will get most from Athens and ancient Rome. Mr. Matthew