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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

306          Truth and Convenience

Over and over again she sang this burden in a small, still
voice, and so I left her. Then straightway I came upon some
butterflies whose' profession it was to pretend to believe in all
manner of vital truths which in their inner practice they re-
jected ; thus, pretending to be certain other and hateful
butterflies which no bird will eat by reason of their abominable
smell, these cunning ones conceal their own sweetness, live
long in the land and see good days. Think of that, 0 Earnest
Clergyman, my friend ! No. Lying is like Nature, you may
expel her with a fork, but she will always come back again.
Lying is like the poor, we must have it always with us. The
question is, How much, wjien, where, to whom and, under what
circumstances is lying right ? For, once admit that a plover
may pretend to have a broken wing and yet be without sin if
she have pretended well enough, and the thin edge of the
wedge has been introduced so that there is no more saying
that we must never lie.*

It is not, then, the discovery that a man has the power to lie
that shakes my confidence in him ; it is loss of confidence in his
mendacity that I find it impossible to get over. I forgive him
for telling me lies, but I cannot forgive him for not telling me
the same lies, or nearly so, about the same things. This shows
he has a slipshod memory, which is unpardonable, or else that
he tells so many lies that he finds it impossible to remember all
of them, and this is like having too many of the poor always
with us. The plover and the spider have each of them their
stock of half a dozen lies or so which we may expect them to
tell .when occasion arises; they are plausible and consistent,
but we know where to have them; otherwise, if they were
liable, like self-deceivers, to spring mines upon us in unex-
pected places, man would soon make it his business to reform
themónot from within, but from without.

And now it is time I came to the drift of my letter, which is
that if " An Earnest Clergyman " has not cheated himself into
thinking he is telling the truth, he will do no great harm by
stopping where he is. Do not let him make too much fuss
about trifles. The solemnity of the truths which he professes
to uphold is very doubtful; there is a tacit consent that it
exists more on paper than in reality. If he is a man of any
tact, he can say all he is compelled to say and do all the Church
requires of himólike a gentleman, with neither undue slovenli-