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CONDUCT OF LIFE
CONDUCT OF LIFE.
R. W. EMERSON.
TIOKNOR AND FIELDS.
M DCCC LX.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
R. W. Emerson,
in the Clerk's OfBce of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
STEREOTYPED AND PRINTED BY H. 0. HODGHTON.
T. Fate, 1
II. Power, 43
in. Wealth, 71
IV. Culture, Ill
V. Behavior, 145
VI. Worship, 173
VII. Considerations by the Way, 213
VITI. Beauty, 245
IX. Illusions, 271
Delicate omens traced in air
To the lone bard true witness bare;
Birds with auguries on their wings
Chanted undeceiving things
Him to beckon, him to warn;
Well might then the poet scorn
To learn of scribe or courier
Hints writ in vaster character;
And on his mind, at dawn of day,
Sofb shadows of the evening lay.
For the prevision is allied
Unto the thing so signified;
Or say, the foresight that awaits
Is the same Genius that creates.
It chanced during one winter, a few years ago,
that our cities were bent on discussing the theory
of the Age. By an odd coincidence, four or five
noted men were each reading a discourse to the
citizens of Boston or New York, on the Spirit of
the Times. It so happened that the subject had
the same prominence in some remarkable pam-
phlets and journals issued in London in the same
season. To me, however, the question of the times
resolved itself into a practical question of the con-
duct of life. How shall I live ? We are incom-
petent to solve the times. Our geometry cannot
span the huge orbits of the prevailing ideas, be-
hold their return, and reconcile their opposition.
We can only obey our own polarity. 'Tis fine
for us to speculate and elect our course, if we
must accept an irresistible dictation.
In our first steps to gain our wishes, we come
upon immovable limitations. We are fired with
the hope to reform men. After many experi-
ments, we find that we must begin earlier, — at
school. But the boys and girls are not docile ;
2 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
we can make nothing of them. We decide that
they are not of good stock. We must begin our
reform earher still, — at generation : that is to say,
there is Fate, or laws of the world.
But if there be irresistible dictation, this dicta-
tion understands itself If we must accept Fate,
we are not less compelled to affirm liberty, the
significance of the individual, the grandeur of duty,
the power of character. This is true, and that
other is true. But our geometry cannot span these
extreme points, and reconcile them. What to do ?
By obeying each thought frankly, by harping, or,
if you will, pounding on each string, we learn at
last its power. By the same obedience to other
thoughts, we learn theirs, and tliQn comes some
reasonable hope of harmonizing them. We are
sure, that, though we know not how, necessity
does comport with liberty, the individual with the
world, my polarity with the spirit of the times.
The riddle of the age has for each a private solu-
tion. If one would study his own time, it must
be by this method of taking up in turn each of the
leading topics which belong to our scheme of hu-
man life, and, by firmly stating all that is agree-
able to experience on one, and doing the same
justice to the opposing facts in the others, the true
limitations will appear. Any excess of emphasis,
on one part, would be corrected, and a just balance
would be made.
But let us honestly state the facts. Our Amer-
ica has a bad name for superficialness. Great nien,
great nations, have not been boasters and buf-
foons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have
manned themselves to face it. The Spartan, em-
bodying his religion in his country, dies before its
majesty without a question. The Turk, who be-
lieves his doom is written on the iron leaf in the
moment when he entered the world, rushes on the
enemy's sabre with undivided will. The Turk,
the Arab, the Persian, accepts the foreordained
" Ou two days, it steads not to run from thy grave,
The appointed, and the unappointed day;
On the first, neither balm nor physician can save,
Nor thee, on the second, the Universe slay."
The Hindoo, under the wheel, is as firm. Our
Calvinists, in the last generation, had something
of the same dignity. They felt that the weight
of the Universe held them down to their place.
What could they do ? Wise men feel that there
is something which cannot be talked or voted
away, — a strap or belt which girds the world.
" The Destiny, minister general.
That executeth in the world o'er all,
The purveyance which God hath seen beforne,
So strong it is, that tho' the world had sworn
The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,
Yet sometime it shall fallen on a day
CONDUCT OF LIFE.
That falleth not oft in a thousand year;
For, certainly, our appetites here,
Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love,
All this is ruled by the sight above."
Chaucer: The Kniyhte's Tale.
The Greek Tragedy expressed the same sense :
" Whatever is fated, that will take place. The
great immense mind of Jove is not to be trans-
■ Savages cling to a local god of one tribe or
town. The broad ethics of Jesus were quickly
narrowed to village theologies, which preach an
election or favoritism. And, now and then, an
amiable parson, like Jung Stilling, or Robert Hun-
tington, believes in a pistareen-Providence, which,
whenever the good man wants a dinner, makes
that somebody shall knock at his door, and leave
a half-dollar. But Nature is no sentimentalist, —
does not cosset or pamper us. We must see that
the world is rough and surly, and will not mind
drowning a man or a woman ; but swallows your
ship like a grain of dust. The cold, inconsiderate
of persons, tingles your blood, benumbs your feet,
freezes a man like an apple. The diseases, the
elements, fortune, gravity, lightning, respect no
persons. The way of Providence is a little rude.
The habit of snake and spider, the snap of the
tiger and other leapers and bloody jumpers, the
crackle of the bones of his prey in the coil of the
anaconda, — these are in the system, and our habits
are Kke theirs. You have just dined, and, however
scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the
graceful distance of miles, there is complicity, —
expensive races, — race living at the expense of
race. The planet is liable to shocks from comets,
perturbations from planets, rendings from earth-
quake and volcano, alterations of climate, preces-
sions of equinoxes. Rivers dry up by opening of
the forest. The sea changes its bed. Towns and
counties fall into it. At Lisbon, an earthquake
killed men like flies. At Naples, three years ago,
ten thousand persons were crushed in a few min-
utes. The scurvy at sea ; the sword of the climate
in the west of Africa, at Cayenne, at Panama, at
New Orleans, cut off men like a massacre. Our
western prairie shakes with fever and ague. The
cholera, the small-pox, have proved as mortal to
some tribes, as a frost to the crickets, which, hav-
ing filled the summer with noise, are silenced by
a fall of the temperature of one night. Without
uncovering what does not concern us, or counting
how many species of parasites hang on a bombyx ;
or groping after intestinal parasites, or infusory
biters, or the obscurities of alternate generation ; —
the forms of the shark, the lahrus, the jaw of the
sea-wolf paved with crushing teeth, the weapons of
the grampus, and other warriors hidden in the sea,
— are hints of ferocity in the interiors of nature.
6 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
Let US not deny it up and down. Providence has
a wild, rough, incalculable road to its end, and it
is of no use to try to whitewash its huge, mixed
instrumentalities, or to dress up that terrific bene-
factor in a clean shirt and white neckcloth of a
student in divinity.
Will you say, the disasters which threaten man-
kind are exceptional, and one need not lay his ac-
count for cataclysms every day? Aye, but what
happens once, may happen again, and so long as
these strokes are not to be parried by us, they
must be feared.
But these shocks and ruins are less destructive
to us, than the stealthy power of other laws which
act on us daily. An expense of ends to means
is fate ; — organization tyrannizing over character.
The menagerie, or forms and powers of the spine,
is a book of fate : the bill of the bird, the skull
of the snake, determines tyrannically its limits. So
is the scale of races, of temperaments ; so is sex ;
so is climate ; so is the reaction of talents imprison-
ing the vital power in certain directions. Every
spirit makes its house ; but afterwards the house
confines the spirit.
The gross lines are legible to the dull : the cab-
man is phrenologist so far ; he looks in your face to
see if his shilling is sure. A dome of brow denotes
one thing ; a pot-belly another ; a squint, a pug-
nose, mats of hair, the pigment of the epidermis.
betray character. People seem sheathed in their
tough organization. Ask* Spurzheim, ask the doc-
tors, ask Quetelet, if temperaments decide nothing ?
or if there be anything they do not decide ? Read
the description in medical books of the four tem-
peraments, and you will think you are reading your
own thoughts which you had not yet told. Find
the part which black eyes, and which blue eyes,
play severally in the company. How shall a man
escape from his ancestors, or draw off from his
veins the black drop which he drew from his fath-
er's or his mother's life ? It often appears in a
family, as if all the qualities of the progenitors were
potted in several jars, — some ruling quality in each
son or daughter of the house, — and sometimes the
unmixed temperament, the rank unmitigated elixir,
the family vice, is drawn off in a separate indi-
vidual, and the others are proportionally relieved.
We sometimes see a change of expression in our
companion, and say, his father, or his mother, comes
to the windows of his eyes, and sometimes a remote
relative. In different hours, a man represents each
of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven
or eight of us rolled up in each man's skin, — seven
or eight ancestors at least, — and they constitute
the variety of notes for that new piece of music
which his life is. At the corner of the street, you
read the possibility of each passenger, in the facial
angle, in the complexion, in the depth of his eye.
8 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
His parentage determines it. Men are what their
mothers made them. You may as well ask a loom
which weaves huckaback, why it does not make
cashmere, as expect poetry from this engineer, or a
chemical discovery from that jobber. Ask the dig-
ger in the ditch to explain Newton's laws : the fine
organs of his brain have been pinched by overwork
and squalid poverty from father to son, for a hun-
dred years. When each comes forth from his
mother's womb, the gate of gifts closes behind him.
Let him value his hands and feet, he has but one
pair. So he has but one future, and that is already
predetermined in his lobes, and described in that
little fatty face, pig-eye, and squat form. All the
privilege and all the legislation of the world can-
not meddle or help to make a poet or a prince of
Jesus said, " When he looketh on her, he hath
committed adultery." But he is an adulterer be-
fore he has yet looked on the woman, by the super-
fluity of animal, and the defect of thought, in his
constitution. Who meets him, or who meets her,
in the street, sees that they are ripe to be each
In certain men, digestion and sex absorb the vital
force, and the stronger these are, the individual is
so much weaker. The more of these drones perish,
the better for the hive. If, later, they give birth
to some superior individual, with force enough to
add to tins animal a new aim, and a complete ap-
paratus to work it out, all the ancestors are gladly
forgotten. Most men and most women are merely
one couple more. Now and then, one has a new
cell or camarilla opened in his brain, — an archi-
tectural, a musical, or a philological knack, some
stray taste or talent for flowers, or chemistry, or
pigments, or story-telling, a good hand for drawing,
a good foot for dancing, an athletic frame for wide
journeying, &c. — which skill nowise alters rank in
the scale of nature, but serves to pass the time, the
life of sensation going on as before. At last, these
hints and tendencies are fixed in one, or in a suc-
cession. Each absorbs so much food and force, as
to become itself a new centre. The new talent
draws off so rapidly the vital force, that not enough
remains for the animal functions, hardly enough for
health ; so that, in the second generation, if the like
genius appear, the health is visibly deteriorated, and
the generative force impaired.
People are born with the moral or with the ma-
terial bias ; — uterine brothers with this diverging
destination : and I suppose, with high magnifiers,
Mr. Frauenhofer or Dr. Carpenter might come to
distinguish in the embryo at the fourth day, this
is a Whig, and that a Free-soiler.
It was a poetic attempt to lift this mountain
of Fate, to reconcile this despotism of race with
liberty, which led the Hindoos to say, " Fate is
10 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state
of existence." I find tlie coincidence of the ex-
tremes of eastern and western speculation in the
daring statement of SchelHng, " there is in every
man a certain feehng, that he has been what he is
from all eternity, and by no means became such in
time." To say it less sublimely, — in the history
of the individual is always an account of his con-
dition, and he knows himself to be a party to his
A good deal of our politics is physiological. Now
and then, a man of wealth in the heyday of youth
adopts the tenet of broadest freedom. In England,
there is always some man of wealth and large con-
nection planting himself, during all his years of
health, on the side of progress, who, as soon as he
begins to die, checks his forward play, calls in his
troops, and bepomes conservative. All conserva-
tives are such from personal defects. They have
been effeminated by position or nature, born halt
and blind, through luxury of their parents, and
can only, like invalids, act on the defensive. But
strong natures, backwoodsmen, New Hampshire
giants. Napoleons, Burkes, Broughams, Websters,
Kossuths, are inevitable patriots, until their life
ebbs, and their defects and gout, palsy and money,
The strongest idea incarnates itself in majorities
and nations, in the healthiest and strongest. Prob-
ably, tlie election goes by avoirdupois weight, and,
if you could weigh bodily the tonnage of any hun-
dred of the Whig and the Democratic party in a
town, on the Dearborn balance, as they passed the
hayscales, you could predict with certainty which
party would carry it. On the whole, it would be
rather the speediest way of deciding the vote, to
put the selectmen or the mayor and aldermen at
In science, we have to consider two things : power
and circumstance. All we know of the egg, from
each successive discovery, is, another vesicle ; and if,
after five hundred years, you get a better observer,
or a better glass, he finds within the last observed
another. In vegetable and animal tissue, it is just
alike, and all that the primary power or spasm
operates, is, still, vesicles, vesicles. Yes, — but the
tyrannical Circumstance ! A vesicle in new cir-
cumstances, a vesicle lodged in darkness, Oken
thought, became animal ; in light, a plant. Lodged
in the parent *animal, it suffers changes, which end
in unsheathing miraculous capability in the unal-
tered vesicle, and it unlocks itself to fish, bird, or
quadruped, head and foot, eye and claw. The
Circumstance is Nature. Nature is, what you may
do. ^ There is much you may not. We have two
' hings, — the circumstance, and the life. Once
we thought, positive power was all. Now we
learn, that negative power, or circumstance, is half.
IMVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA UBRARY
12 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
Nature is the tyrannous circumstance, the thick
skull, the sheathed snake, the ponderous, rock-like
jaw ; necessitated activity ; violent direction ; the
conditions of a tool, like the locomotive, strong
enough on its track, but which can do nothing but
mischief off of it ; or skates, which are wings on
the ice, but fetters on the ground.
The book of Nature is the book of Fate. She
turns the gigantic pages, — leaf after leaf, — never
re-turning one. One leaf she lays down, a floor of
granite ; then a thousand ages, and a bed of slate ;
a thousand ages, and a measure of coal ; a thou-
sand ages, and a layer of marl and mud : vegetable
forms appear ; her first misshapen animals, zoo-
phyte, trilobium, fish; then, saurians, — rude forms,
in which she has only blocked her future statue,
concealing under these unwieldly monsters the fine
type of her coming king. The face of the planet
cools and dries, the races meliorate, and man is
born. But when a race has lived its term, it
comes no more again. ' .
The population of the world is a conditional pop-
ulation ; not the best, but the best that could live
now ; and the scale of tribes, and the steadiness
with which victory adheres to one tribe, and defeat
to another, is as uniform as the superposition of
strata. We know in history what weight belongs to
race. We see the English, French, and Germans
planting themselves on every shore and- market of
America and Australia, and monopolizing the com-
merce of these countries. We like the nervous and
victorious habit of our own branch of the family.
We follow the step of the Jew, of the Indian, of the
Negro. We see how much will has been expended
to extinguish the Jew, in vain. Look at the un-
palatable conclusions of Knox, in his " Fragment
of Races," — a rash and unsatisfactory writer, but
charged with pungent and unforgetable truths.
" Nature respects race, and not hybrids." " Every
race has its own habitat.'''' " Detach a colony from
the race, and it deteriorates to the crab." See the
shades of the picture. The German and Irish mil-
hons, like the Negro, have a great deal of guano in
their destiny. They are ferried over the Atlantic,
and carted over America, to ditch and to drudge,
to make corn cheap, and then to lie down prema-
turely to make a spot of green grass on the prairie.
One more fagot of these adamantine bandages,
is, the new science of Statistics. It is a rule, that
the most casual and extraordinary events — if the
basis of population is broad enough — become mat-
ter of fixed calculation. It would not be safe t .
say when a captain like Bonaparte, a singer like
Jenny Lind, or a navigator like Bowditch, would
be born in Boston : but, on a population of twenty
or two hundred millions, something like accuracy
may be had.*
* " Everything which pertains to the human species, considered
14 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
'Tis frivolous to fix pedantically the date of par-
ticular inventions. They have all been invented
over and over fifty times. Man is the arch ma-
chine, of which all these shifts drawn from himself
are toy models. He helps himself on each emer-
gency by copying or duplicating his own structure,
just so far as the need is. 'Tis hard to find the
right Homer, Zoroaster, or Menu ; harder still to
find the Tubal Cain, or Vulcan, or Cadmus, or
Copernicus, or Fust, or Fulton, the indisputable
inventor. There are scores and centuries of them.
" The air is full of men." This kind of talent so
abounds, this constructive tool-making efficiency, as
if it adhered to the chemic atoms, as if the air
he breathes were made of Vaucansons, Franklins,
Doubtless, in every million there will be an as-
tronomer, a mathematician, a comic poet, a mystic.
No one can read the history of astronomy, with-
out perceiving that Copernicus, Newton, Laplace,
are not new men, or a new kind of men, but
that Thales, Anaximenes, Hipparchus, Empedocles,
Aristarchus, Pythagoras, (Enipodes, had antici-
pated them ; each had the same tense geometrical
brain, apt for the same vigorous computation and
as a whole, belongs to the order of physical facts. The greater the
number of individuals, the more does the influence of the individual
will disappear, leaving predominance to a series of general facts de-
pendent on causes by which society exists, and is preserved." —
logic, a mind parallel to the movement of the
world. The Roman mile probably rested on a
measure of a degree of the meridian. Mahometan
and Chinese know what we know of leap-year,
of the Gregorian calendar, and of the precession
of the equinoxes. As, in every barrel of cowries,
brought to New Bedford, there shall be one orangia^
so there will, in a dozen millions of Malays and
Mahometans, be one or two astronomical skulls.
In a large city, the most casual things, and things
whose beauty lies in their casualty, are produced as
punctually and to order as the baker's muffin for
breakfast. Punch makes exactly one capital joke
a week ; and the journals contrive to furnish one
good piece of news every day.
And not less work the laws of repression, the
penalties of violated functions. Famine, typhus,
fi-ost, war, suicide, and effete races, must be reck-
oned calculable parts of the system of the world.
These are pebbles from the mountain, hints
of the terms by which our life is walled up, and
which show a kind of mechanical exactness, as of
a loom or mill, in what we call casual or fortuitous
The force with which we resist these torrents of
tendency looks so ridiculously inadequate, that it
amounts to little more than a criticism or a protest
made by a minority of one, under compulsion of
millions. I seemed, in the height of a tempest, to
16 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
see men overboard struggling in the waves, and
driven about here and there. They glanced intel-
ligently at each other, but 'twas little they could do
for one another ; 'twas much if each could keep
afloat alone. Well, they had a right to their eye-
beams, and all the rest was Fate.
We cannot trifle with this reality, this cropping-
out in our planted gardens of the core of the world.
No picture of life can have any veracity that does
not admit the odious facts. A man's power is
hooped in by a necessity, which, by many experi-
ments, he touches on every side, until he learns its
The element running through entire nature,
which we popularly call Fate, is known to us as
limitation. Whatever limits us, we call Fate. If
we are brute and barbarous, the fate takes a brute
and dreadful shape. As we refine, our checks
become finer. If we rise to spiritual culture, the
antagonism takes a spiritual form. In the Hindoo
fables, Vishnu follows Maya through all her ascend-
ing changes, from insect and crawfish up to ele-
phant ; whatever form she took, he took the male
form of that kind, until she became at last woman
and goddess, and he a man and a god. The lim-
itations refine as the soul purifies, but the ring of
necessity is always perched at the top.
When the gods in the Norse heaven were unable
to bind the Fenris Wolf with steel or with weight
of mountains, — the one he snapped and the other
he spurned with his heel, — they put round his foot
a limp band softer than silk or cobweb, and this
held him : the more he spurned it, the stiffer it
drew. So soft and so stanch is the ring of Fate.
Neither brandy, nor nectar, nor sulphuric ether,
nor hell-fire, nor ichor, nor poetry, nor genius,
can get rid of this limp band. For if we give it
the high sense in which the poets use it, even
thought itself is not above Fate : that too must act
according to eternal laws, and all that is wilful and
fantastic in it is in opposition to its fundamental
And, last of all, high over thought, in the world
of morals. Fate appears as vindicator, levelling the
high, lifting the low, requiring justice in man, and
always striking soon or late, when justice is not
done. What is useful will last ; what is hurtful
will sink. " The doer must suffer," said the
Greeks: "you would soothe a Deity not to be
soothed." " God himself cannot procure good for
the wicked," said the Welsh triad. " God may
consent, but only for a time," said the bard of
Spain. The limitation is impassable by any insight
of man. In its last and loftiest ascensions, insight
itself, and the freedom of the will, is one of its
obedient members. But we must not run into
generalizations too large, but show the natural
18 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
bounds or essential distinctions, and seek to do
justice to the otTier elements as well.
Thus we trace Fate, in matter, mind, and mor-
als, — in race, in retardations of strata, and in
thought and character as well. It is everywhere
bound or limitation. But Fate has its lord ; limita-
tion its limits ; is different seen from above and
from below ; from within and from without. For,
though Fate is immense, so is power, which is the
other fact in the dual world, immense. If Fate
follows and limits power, power attends and an-
tagonizes Fate. We must respect Fate as natural
history, but there is more than natural history.
For who and what is this criticism that pries into
the matter ? Man is not order of nature, sack
and sack, belly and members, link in a chain, nor
any ignominious baggage, but a stupendous an-
tagonism, a dragging together of the poles of the
Universe. He betrays his relation to what is below
him, — thick-skulled, small-brained, fishy, quadru--
manous, — quadruped ill-disguised, hardly escaped
into biped, and has paid for the new powers by loss
of some of the old ones. But the lightning which
explodes and fashions planets, maker of planets and
suns, is in him. On one side, elemental order,
sandstone and granite, rock-ledges, peat-bog, forest,
sea and shore ; and, on the other part, thought, the
spirit which composes and decomposes nature, —
here they are, side by side, god and devil, mind and
matter, king and conspirator, belt and spasm, riding
peacefully together in the eye and brain of every
Nor can he blink the freewill. To hazard the
contradiction, — freedom is necessary. If you please
to plant yourself on the side of Fate, and say. Fate
is all ; then we say, a part of Fate is the freedom of
man. Forever wells up the impulse of choosing
and acting in the soul. Intellect annuls Fate. So
far as a man thinks, he is free. And though noth-
ing is more disgusting than the crowing about lib-
erty by slaves, as most men are, and the flippant
mistaking for freedom of some paper preamble like
a " Declaration ©f Independence," or the statute
right to vote, by those who have never dared to
think or to act, yet it is wholesome to man to look
not at Fate, but the other way : the practical view
is the other. His sound relation to these facts is to
use and command, not to cringe to them. " Look
not on nature, for her name is fatal," said the
oracle. The too much contemplation of these limits
induces meanness. They who talk much of des-
tiny, their birth-star, &c., are in a lower dangerous
plane, and invite the evils they fear.
I cited the instinctive and heroic races as proud
believers in Destiny. They conspire with it ; a
loving resignation is with the event. But the
dogma makes a different impression, when it is
20 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
held by the weak and lazy. 'Tis weak and vicious
people who cast the blame on Fate. The right use
of Fate is to bring up our conduct to the loftiness
of nature. Rude and invincible except by them-
selves are the elements. So let man be. Let him
empty his breast of his windy conceits, and show
his lordship by manners and deeds on the scale of
nature. Let him hold his purpose as with the tug
of gravitation. No power, no persuasion, no bribe
shall make him give up his point. A man ought to
compare advantageously with a river, an oak, or a
mountain. He shall have not less the flow, the
expansion, and the resistance of these.
'Tis the best use of Fate to teach a fatal cour-
age. Go face the fire at sea, or the cholera in your
friend's house, or the burglar in your own, or what
danger lies in the way of duty, knowing you are
guarded by the cherubim of Destiny. If you be-
lieve in Fate to your harm, believe it, at least, for
For, if Fate is so prevaihng, man also is part
of it, and can confront fate with fate. If the
Universe have these* savage accidents, our atoms
are as savage in resistance. We should be crushed
by the atmosphere, but for the reaction of the air
within the body. A tube made of a film of glass
can resist the shock of the ocean, if filled with the
same water. If there be omnipotence in the stroke,
there is omnipotence of recoil.
1. But Fate against Fate is only parrying and
defence : there are, also, the noble creative forces.
The revelation of Thouo-ht takes man out of servi-
tude into freedom. We rightly say of ourselves,
we were born, and afterward we were born again,
and many times. We have successive experiences
so important, that the new forgets the old, and
hence the mythology of the seven or the nine
heavens. The day of days, the great day of the
feast of life, is that in which the inward eye opens
to the Unity in things, to the omnipresence of law ;
— sees that what is must be, and ought to be, or is
the best. This beatitude dips from on high down
on us, and we see. It is not in us so much as we
are in it. If the air come to our lungs, we breathe
and live ; if not, we die. If the light come to our
eyes, we see ; else not. And if truth come to our
mind, we suddenly expand to its dimensions, as if
we grew to worlds. We are as lawgivers ; we
speak for Nature ; we prophesy and divine.
This insight throws us on the party and interest
of the Universe, against all and sundry ; against
ourselves, as much as others. A man speaking
from insight affirms of himself what is true of the
mind : seeing its immortality, he says, I am im-
mortal ; seeing its invincibility, he says, I am
strong. It is not in us, but we are in it. It is
of the maker, not of what is made. All things are
touched and changed by it. This uses, and is not
22 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
used. It distances those who share it, from those
who share it not. Those who share it not are
flocks and herds. It dates from itself ; — not from
former men or better men, — gospel, or constitution,
or college, or custom. Where it shines, Nature is
no longer intrusive, but all things make a musical
or pictorial impression. The world of men show
like a comedy without laughter : — populations, in-
terests, government, history ; — 'tis all toy figures
in "a toy house. It does not overvalue particular
truths. We hear eagerly every thought and word
quoted from an intellectual man. But, in his pres-
ence, our own mind is roused to activity, and we
forget very fast what he says, much more interested
in the new play of our own thought, than in any
thought of his. 'Tis the majesty into which we
have suddenly mounted, the impersonality, the
scorn of egotisms, the sphere of laws, that engage
us. Once we were stepping a little this way, and
a little that way ; now, we are as men in a balloon,
and do not think so much of the point we have left,
or the point we would make, as of the liberty and
glory of the way.
Just as much intellect as you add, so much
organic power. He who sees through the design,
presides over it, and must will that which must be.
We sit and rule, and, though we sleep, our dream
will come to pass. Our thought, though it were
only an hour old, affirms an oldest necessity, not to
be separated from thonght, and not to be separated
from will. They must always have coexisted. It
apprises us of its sovereignty and godhead, which
refuse to be severed from it. It is not mine or
thine, but the will of all mind. It is poured into
the souls of all men, as the soul itself which consti-
tutes them men. I know not whether there be, as
is alleged, in the upper region of our atmosphere, a
permanent westerly current, which carries with it
all atoms which rise to that height, but I see, that
w^hen souls reach a certain clearness of perception,
they accept a knowledge and motive above selfish-
ness. A breath of will blows eternally through the
universe of souls in the direction of the Right and
Necessary. It is the air which all intellects inhale
and exhale, and it is the wind which blows the
worlds into order and orbit.
Thought dissolves the material universe, by car-
rying the mind up into a sphere where all is plastic.
Of two men, each obeying his own thought, he
whose thought is deepest will be the strongest
character. Always one man more than another
represents the will of Divine Providence to the
2. If thought makes free, so does the moral sen-
timent. The mixtures of spiritual chemistry refuse
to be analyzed. Yet we can see that with the per-
ception of truth is joined the desire that it shall
prevail. That aflPection is essential to will. More-
24 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
over, wlien a strong will appears, it usually results
from a certain unity of organization, as if the whole
energy of body and mind flowed in one direction.
All great force is real and elemental. There is no
manufacturing a strong will. There must be a
pound to balance a pound. Where power is shown
in will, it must rest on the universal force. Alaric
and Bonaparte must believe they rest on a truth, or
their will can be bought or bent. There is a bribe
possible for any finite will. But the pure sympathy
with universal ends is an infinite force, and cannot
be bribed or bent. Whoever has had experience
of the moral sentiment cannot choose but believe in
unlimited power. Each pulse from that heart is an
oath from the Most High. I know not what the
word sublime means, if it be not the intimations in
this infant of a terrific force. A text of heroism, a
name and anecdote of courage, are not arguments,
but sallies of freedom. One of these is the verse
of the Persian Hafiz, " 'Tis written on the gate of
Heaven, ' Wo unto him who suffers himself to be
betrayed by Fate ! ' " Does the reading of history
make us fatalists ? What courage does not the
opposite opinion show ! A little whim of will to be
free gallantly contending against the universe of
But insio'ht is not will, nor is affection will.
Perception is cold, and goodness dies in wishes ;
as Voltaire said, 'tis the misfortune of worthy people
that they are cowards ; " mti des plus grands mal-
heurs des lionnetes gens c'est quHls sont des Idches.^^
There must be a fusion of these two to generate
the energy of will. There can be no driving force,
except through the conversion of the man into his
will, making him the will, and the will him. And
one may say boldly, that no man has a right per-
ception of any truth, who has not been reacted on
by it, so as to be ready to be its martyr.
The one serious and formidable thing in nature
is a will. Society is servile from want of will, and
therefore the world wants saviours and religions.
One way is right to go : the hero sees it, and
moves on that aim, and has the world under him
for root and support. He is to others as the world.
His approbation is honor ; his dissent, infamy. The
glance of his eye has the force of sunbeams. A
personal influence towers up in memory only wor-
thy, and we gladly forget numbers, money, climate,
gravitation, and the rest of Fate.
We can afford to allow the limitation, if we
know it is the meter of the growing man. We
stand against Fate, as children stand up against the
wall in their father's house, and notch their height
from year to year. But when the boy grows to man,
and is master of the house, he pulls down that wall,
and builds a new and bigger. 'Tis only a question
of time. Every brave youth is in training to ride
26 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
and rule this dragon. His science is to make weap-
ons and wings of these passions and retarding forces.
Now whether, seeing these two things, fate and pow-
er, we are permitted to beheve in unity ? The bulk
of mankind believe in two gods. They are under
one dominion here in the house, as friend and par-
ent, in social circles, in letters, in art, in love, in
religion : but in mechanics, in dealing with steam
and climate, in trade, in politics, they think they
come under another ; and that it would be a prac-
tical blunder to transfer the method and way of
working of one sphere, into the other. What good,
honest, generous men at home, will be wolves and
foxes on change I What pious men in the parlor
will vote for what reprobates at the polls ! To a
certain point, they believe themselves the care of a
Providence. But, in a steamboat, in an epidemic,
in war, they believe a malignant energy rules.
But relation and connection are not somewhere
and sometimes, but everywhere and always. The
divine order does not stop where their sight stops.
The friendly power works on the same rules, in the
next farm, and the next planet. But, where they
have not experience, they run against it, and hurt
themselves. Fate, then, is a name for facts not
yet passed under the fire of thought ; — for causes
which are unpenetrated.
But every jet of chaos which threatens to exter-
minate us, is convertible by intellect into wholesome
force. Fate is unpenetrated causes. The water
drowns ship and sailor, like a grain of dust. But
learn to swim, trim your bark, and the wave wdiich
drowned it, will be cloven by it, and carry it, like
its own foam, a plume and a power. The cold is
inconsiderate of persons, tingles your blood, freezes
a man like a dew-drop. But learn to skate, and
the ice will give you a graceful, sweet, and poetic
motion. The cold will brace your limbs and brain
to genius, and make you foremost men of time.
Cold and sea will train an imperial Saxon race,
which nature cannot bear to lose, and, after cooping
it up for a thousand years in yonder England, gives
a hundred Englands, a hundred Mexicos. All
the bloods it shall absorb and domineer: and more
than Mexicos, — the secrets of water and steam, the
spasms of electricity, the ductility of metals, the char-
iot of the air, the ruddered balloon are awaiting you.
The annual slaughter from typhus far exceeds
that of war ; but right drainage destroys typhus.
The plague in the sea-service from scurvy is healed
by lemon juice and other diets portable or pro-
curable : the depopulation by cholera and small-pox
is ended by drainage and vaccination ; and e^ry
other pest is not less in the chain of cause and
effect, and may be fought oif. And, whilst art
draws out the venom, it commonly extorts some
benefit from the vanquished enemy. The mis-
chiev.ous torrent is taught to drudge for man : the
28 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
wild beasts he makes useful for food, or dress, or
labor ; the chemic explosions are controlled like his
watch. These are now the steeds on which he
rides. Man moves in all modes, by legs of horses,
by wings of wind, by steam, by gas of balloon, by
electricity, and stands on tiptoe threatening to hunt
the eagle in his own element. There's nothing he
will not make his carrier.
Steam was, till the other day, the devil which we
dreaded. Every pot made by any human potter or
brazier had a hole in its cover, to let off the enemy,
lest he should lift pot and roof, and carry the house
away. But the Marquis of Worcester, Watt, and
Fulton bethought themselves, that, where was pow-
er, was not devil, but was God ; that it must be
availed of, and not by any means let off and wasted.
Could he lift pots and roofs and houses so handily ?
he was the workman they were in search of. He
could be used to lift away, chain, and compel other
devils, far more reluctant and dangerous, namely,
cubic miles of earth, mountains, weight or resist-
ance of water, machinery, and the labors of all
men in the world ; and time he shall lengthen, and
It has not fared much otherwise with higher
kinds of steam. The opinion of the million was
the terror of the world, and it was attempted,
either to dissipate it, by amusing nations, or to
pile it over with strata of society, — a layer of
soldiers ; over that, a layer of lords ; and a king
on the top ; with clamps and hoops of castles, gar-
risons, and police. But, sometimes, the religious
principle would get in, and burst the hoops, and
rive every mountain laid on top of it. The Fultons
and Watts of politics, believing in unity, saw that
it was a power, and, by satisfying it, (as justice
satisfies everybody,) through a different disposition
of society, — grouping it on a level, instead of piling
it into a mountain, — they have contrived to make
of this terror the most harmless and energetic form
of a State.
Very odious, I confess, are the lessons of Fate.
Who likes to have a dapper phrenologist pronounc-
ing on his fortunes ? Who likes to believe that
he has hidden in his skull, spine, and pelvis, all the
vices of a Saxon or Celtic race, which will be sure
to pull him down, — with what grandeur of hope
and resolve he is fired, — into a selfish, huckstering,
servile, dodging animal ? A learned physician tells
us, the fact is invariable with the Neapolitan, that,
when mature, he assumes the forms of the unmis-
takable scoundrel. That is a little overstated, —
but may pass.
But these are magazines and arsenals. A man
must thank his defects, and stand in some terror
of his talents. A transcendent talent draws so
largely on his forces, as to lame him ; a defect pays
him revenues on the other side. The suiferance,
30 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
which is the badge of the Jew, has made him, in
these days, the ruler of the rulers of the earth.
If Fate is ore and quarry, if evil is good in the
making, if limitation is power that shall be, if ca-
lamities, oppositions, and weights are wings and
means, — we are reconciled.
Fate involves the melioration. No statement of
the Universe can have any soundness, which does
not admit its ascending effort. The direction of the
whole, and of the parts, is toward benefit, and in
proportion to the health. Behind every individual,
closes organization : before him, opens liberty, —
the Better, the Best. The first and worst races are
dead. The second and imperfect races are dying
out, or remain for the maturing of higher. In the
latest race, in man, every generosity, every new
perception, the love and praise he extorts from his
fellows, are certificates of advance out of fate into
freedom. Liberation of the will from the sheaths
and clogs of orjranization which he has outgrown,
is the end and aim of this world. Every calamity
is a spur and valuable hint ; and where his en-
deavors do not yet fully avail, they tell as tendency.
The whole circle of animal life, — tooth against
tooth, — devouring war, war for food, a yelp of pain
and a grunt of triumph, until, at last, the whole
menagerie, the whole chemical mass is mellowed
and refined for higher use," — pleases at a sufficient
But to see how fate slides into freedom, and free-
dom into fate, observe how far the roots of every
creature run, or find, if you can, a point where
there is no thread of connection. Our life is con-
sentaneous and far-related. This knot of nature is
so well tied, that nobody was ever cunning enough
to find the two ends. Nature is intricate, over-
lapped, interweaved, and endless. Christopher
Wren said of the beautiful King's College chapel,
" that, if anybody would tell him where to lay the
first stone, he would build such another." But
where shall we find the first atom in this house of
man, which is all consent, inosculation, and balance
of parts ?
The web of relation is shown in habitat^ shown in
hybernation. When hybernation was observed, it
was found, that, whilst some animals became torpid
in winter, others were torpid in summer : hyberna-
tion then was a false name. The long sleep is not
an effect of cold, but is regulated by the supply of
food proper to the animal. It becomes torpid when
the fruit or prey it lives on is not in season, and
regains its activity when its food is ready.
Eyes are found in light ; ears in auricular air ;
feet on land ; fins in water ; wings in air ; and,
each creature where it was meant to be, with a
mutual fitness. Every zone has its own Fauna,
There is adjustment between the animal and its
food, its parasite, its enemy. Balances are kept.
32 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
It is not allowed to diminish in numbers, nor to ex-
ceed. The like adjustments exist for man. His
food is cooked, when he arrives ; his coal in the pit ;
the house ventilated ; the mud of the deluge dried ;
his companions arrived at the same hour, and await-
ing him with love, concert, laughter, and tears.
These are coarse adjustments, but the invisible are
not less. There are more belongings to every crea-
ture than his air and his food. His instincts must
be met, and he has predisposing power that bends
and fits what is near him to his use. He is not
possible until the invisible things are right for him,
as well as the visible. Of what changes, then,
in sky and earth, and in finer skies and earths,
does the appearance of some Dante or Columbus
apprise us !
How is this effected ? Nature is no spendthrift,
but takes the shortest way to her ends. As the
general says to his soldiers, " if you want a fort,
build a fort," so nature makes every creature do its
own work and get its living, — is it planet, animal,
or tree. The planet makes itself. The animal cell
makes itself ; — then, what it wants. Every crea-
ture, — wren or dragon, — shall make its own lair.
As soon as there is life, there is self-direction, and
absorbing and using of material. Life is freedom, —
life in the direct ratio of its amount. You may be
sure, the new-born man is not inert. Life works
both voluntarily and supematurally in its neighbor-
hood. Do you suppose, lie can be estimated by his
weight in pounds, or, that he is contained in his
skin, — this reaching, radiating, jaculating fellow ?
The smallest candle fills a mile with its rays, and
the papillae of a man run out to every star.
When there is something to be done, the world
knows how to get it done. The vegetable eye
makes leaf, pericarp, root, bark, or thorn, as the
need is ; the first cell converts itself into stomach,
mouth, nose, or nail, according to the want : the
world throws its life into a hero or a shepherd ; and
puts him where he is wanted. Dante and Colum-
bus were Italians, in their time : they would be
Russians or Americans to-day. Things ripen, new
men come. The adaptation is not capricious. The
ulterior aim, the purpose beyond itself, the correla-
tion by which planets subside and crystallize, then
animate beasts and men, will not stop, but will work
into finer particulars, and from finer to finest.
The secret of the world is, the tie between person
and event. Person makes event, and event person.
The " times," " the age," what is that, but a few pro-
found persons and a few active persons who epitomize
the times ? — Goethe, Hegel, Metternich, Adams,
Calhoun, Guizot, Peel, Cobden, Kossuth, Roths-
child, Astor, Brunei, and the rest. The same fit-
ness must be presumed between a man and the time
and event, as between the sexes, or between a race
of animals and the food it eats, or the inferior races
34 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
it uses. He thinks his fate alien, because the copula
is hidden. But the soul contains the event that
shall befall it, for the event is only the actualization
of its thoughts ; and what we pray to ourselves for
is always granted. The event is the print of your
form. It fits you like your skin. What each does
is proper to him. Events are the children of his
body and mind. We learn that the soul of Fate is
the soul of us, as Hafiz sings,
Alas! till now I had not known,
My guide and fortune's guide are oue.
All the toys that infatuate men, and which they
play for, — houses, land, money, luxury, power,
fame, are the selfsame thing, with a new gauze or
two of illusion overlaid. And of all the drums and
rattles by which men are made willing to have their
heads broke, and are led out solemnly every morn-
ing to parade, — the most admirable is this by which
we are brought to believe that events are arbitrary,
and independent of actions. At the conjuror's, we
detect the hair by which he moves his puppet, but
we have not eyes sharp enough to descry the thread
that ties cause and effect.
Nature magically suits the man to his fortunes,
by making these the fruit of his character. Ducks
take to the water, eagles to the sky, waders to the
sea margin, hunters to the forest, clerks to counting-
rooms, soldiers to the frontier. Thus events grow
on the same stem with persons ; are sub-persons.
The pleasure of life is according to the man that
lives it, and not according to the work or the place.
Life is an ecstasy. We know what madness be-
longs to love, — what power to* paint a vile object
in hues of heaven. As insane persons are indiffer-
ent to their dress, diet, and other accommodations,
and, as we do in dreams, with equanimity, the most
absurd acts, so, a drop more of wine in our cup of
life will reconcile us to strange company and work.
Each creature puts forth from itself its own con-
dition and sphere, as the slug sweats out its slimy
house on the pear-leaf, and the woolly aphides on
the apple perspire their own bed, and the fish its
shell. In youth, we clothe ourselves with rainbows,
and go as brave as the zodiac. In age, we put out
another sort of perspiration, — gout, fever, rheuma-
tism, caprice, doubt, fretting, and avarice.
A man's fortunes are the fruit of his character.
A man's friends are his magnetisms. We go to
Herodotus and Plutarch for examples of Fate ;
but we are examples. " Quisque suos patimur
manes y The tendency of every man to enact
all that is in his constitution is expressed in the
old belief, that the efforts which we make to es-
cape from our destiny only serve to lead us into
it : and I have noticed, a man likes better to be
eomplimented on his position, as the proof of the
last or total excellence, than on his merits.
A man will see his character emitted in the
36 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
events that seem to meet, but which exude from
and accompany hhn. Events expand with the
character. As once he found himself among toys,
so now he plays a^part in colossal systems, and his
growth is declared in his ambition, his companions,
and his performance. He looks like a piece of luck,
but is a piece of causation ; — the mosaic, angulated
and ground to fit into the gap he fills. Hence in
each town there is some man who is, in his brain
and performance, an explanation of the tillage, pro-
duction, factories, banks, churches, ways of living,
and society, of that town. If you do not chance to
meet him, all that you see will leave you a little
puzzled : if you see him, it will become plain. We
know in Massachusetts who built New Bedford,
who built Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, Clinton, Fitch-
burg, Holyoke, Portland, and many another noisy
mart. Each of these men, if they were trans-
parent, would seem to you not so much men, as
walking cities, and, wherever you put them, they
would build one.
Histor}^ is the action and reaction of these two,
— Nature and Thought ; — two boys pushing each
other on the curb-stone of the pavement. Every-
thing is pusher or pushed : and matter and mind
are in perpetual tilt and balance, so. Whilst the
man is weak, the earth takes up him. He plants
his brain and affections. By and by he will take
up the earth, and have his gardens and vmeyards
in the beautiful order and productiveness of his
thought. Every sohd in the universe is ready to
become fluid on the approach of the mind, and the
power to flux it is the measure of the mind. If
the wall remain adamant, it accuses the want of
thought. To a subtler force, it will stream into
new forms, expressive of the character of the mind.
What is the city in which we sit here, but an aggre-
gate of incongruous materials, which have obeyed
the will of some man ? The granite was reluctant,
but his hands were stronger, and it came. Iron was
deep in the ground, and well combined with stone ;
but could not hide from his fires. Wood, lime,
stuffs, fruits, gums, were dispersed over the earth
and sea, in vain. Here they are, within reach of
every man's day-labor, — what he wants of them.
The whole world is the flux of matter over the
wires of thought to the poles or points where it
would build. The races of men rise out of the
ground preoccupied with a thought which rules
them, and divided into parties ready armed and
angry to fight for this metaphysical abstraction.
The quality of the thought differences the Egyp-
tian and the Roman, the Austrian and the Amer-
ican. The men who come on the stage at one
period are all found to be related to each other.
Certain ideas are in the air. We are all im-
pressionable, for we are made of them ; all impres-
sionable, but some more than others, and these first
38 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
express them. This explains the curious contem-
poraneousness of inventions and discoveries. The
truth is in the air, and the most impressionable
brain will announce it first, but all will announce
it a few minutes later. So women, as most sus-
ceptible, are the best index of the coming hour.
So the great man, that is, the man most imbued
with the spirit of the time, is the impressionable
man, — of a fibre irritable and delicate, like iodine
to light. He feels the infinitesimal attractions.
His mind is righter than others, because he yields
to a current so feeble as can be felt only by a needle
The correlation is shown in defects. Moller, in
his Essay on Architecture, taught that the building
wliich was fitted accurately to answer its end, would
turn out to be beautiful, though beauty had not
been intended. I find the like unity in human
structures rather virulent and pervasive ; that a
crudity in the blood will appear in the argument ;
a hump in the shoulder will appear in the speech
and handiwork. If his mind could be seen, the
hump would be seen. If a man has a seesaw in
his voice, it will run into his sentences, into his
poem, into the structure of his fable, into his specu-
lation, into his charity. And, as every man is
hunted by his own daemon, vexed by his own dis-
ease, this checks all his activity.
So each man, like each plant, has his parasites.
FATE. • 39
A strong, astringent, bilious nature has more trucu-
lent enemies than the slugs and moths that fret my
leaves. Such an one has curculios, borers, knife-
worms : a swindler ate him first, then a client,
then a quack, then smooth, plausible gentlemen,
bitter and selfish as Moloch.
This correlation really existing can be divined.
If the threads are there, thought can follow and
show them. Especially when a soul is quick and
docile ; as Chaucer sings,
" Or if the soul of proper kind
Be so perfect as men find,
That it wot what is to come,
And that he warneth all and some
Of every of their aventures.
By previsions or figures;
But that our flesh hath not might
It to understand aright
For it is warned too darkly." —
Some people are made up of rhyme, coincidence,
omen, periodicity, and presage : they meet the
person they seek ; what their companion prepares
to say to them, they first say to him ; and a hun-
dred signs apprise them of what is about to befall.
Wonderful intricacy in the web, wonderful con-
stancy in the design this vagabond life admits. We
wonder how the fly finds its mate, and yet year
after year we find two men, two women, without
legal or carnal tie, spend a great part of their best
time within a few feet of each other. And the
40 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
moral is, that what we seek we shall find ; what
we flee from flees from us ; as Goethe said, " what
we wish for in youth, comes in heaps on us in
old age," too often cursed with the granting of our
prayer : and hence the high caution, that, since
we are sure of having what we wish, we beware
to ask only for high things.
One key, one solution to the mysteries of human
condition, one solution to the old knots of fate,
freedom, and foreknowledge, exists, the propound-
ing, namely, of the double consciousness. A man
must ride alternately on the horses of his private
and his public nature, as the equestrians in the
circus throw themselves nimbly from horse to horse,
or plant one foot on the back of one, and the other
foot on the back of the other. So when a man is
the victim of his fate, has sciatica in his loins, and
cramp in his mind ; a club-foot and a club in his
wit ; a sour face, and a selfish temper ; a strut in
his gait, and a conceit in his affection ; or is ground
to powder by the vice of his race ; he is to rally on
his relation to the Universe, which his ruin benefits.
Leaving the daemon who suffers, he is to take sides
with the Deity who secures universal benefit by his
To offset the drag of temperament and race,
which pulls down, learn this lesson, namely, that
by the cunning co-presence of two elements, which
is throughout nature, whatever lames or paralyzes
you, draws in with it the divinity, in some form, to
repay. A good intention clothes itself with sudden
power. When a god wishes to ride, any chip or
pebble will bud and shoot out winged feet, and
serve him for a horse.
Let us build altars to the Blessed Unity which
holds nature and souls in perfect solution, and com-
pels every atom to serve an universal end. I do
not wonder at a snow-flake, a shell, a summer land-
scape, or the glory of the stars ; but at the necessity
of beauty under which the universe lies ; that all
is and must be pictorial ; that the rainbow, and
the curve of the horizon, and the arch of the blue
vault are only results from the organism of the eye.
There is no need for foolish amateurs to fetch me to
admire a garden of flowers, or a sun-gilt cloudy or
a waterfall, when I cannot look without seeing
splendor and grace. How idle to choose a random
sparkle here or there, when the indwelling neces-
sity plants the rose of beauty on the brow of chaos,
and discloses the central intention of Nature to be
harmony and joy.
Let us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity.
If we thought men were free in the sense, that, in
a single exception one fantastical will could prevail
over the law of things, it were all one as if a child's
hand could pull down the sun. If, in the least par-
ticular, one could derange the order of nature, —
who would accept the gift of life ?
"42 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
Let us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity,
which secures that all is made of one piece ; that
plaintiff and defendant, firiend and enemy, animal
and planet, food and eater, are of one kind. In
astronomy, is vast space, but no foreign system ; in
geology, vast time, but the same laws as to-day.
Why should we be afraid of Nature, which is no
other than " philosophy and theology embodied " ?
Why should we fear to be crushed by savage ele-
ments, we who are made up of the same elements ?
Let us build to the Beautiful Necessity, which
makes man brave in believing that he cannot shun
a danger that is appointed, nor incur one that is
not ; to the Necessity which rudely or softly edu-
cates him to the perception that there are no con-
tingencies ; that Law rules throughout existence, a
Law which is not intelligent but intelligence, —
not personal nor impersonal, — it disdains words
and passes understanding ; it dissolves persons ; it
vivifies nature ; yet solicits the pure in heart to
draw on all its omnipotence.
His tongue was framed to music,
And his hand was armed with skill,
His face was the mould of beauty,
And his heart the throne of will.
There is not yet any inventory of a man's fac-
ulties, any more than a bible of his opinions. Who
shall set a limit to the influence of a human being ?
There are men, who, by their sympathetic attrac-
tions, carry nations with them, and lead the activity
of the human race. And if there be such a tie,
that, wherever the mind of man goes, nature will
accompany him, perhaps there are men whose mag-
netisms are of that force to draw material and ele-
mental powers, and, where they appear, immense
instrumentalities organize around them. Life is a
search after power ; and this is an element with
which the world is so saturated, — there is no chink
or crevice in which it is not lodged, — that no hon-
est seeking goes unrewarded. A man should prize
events and possessions as the ore in which this fine
mineral is found ; and he can well afford to let
events and possessions, and the breath of the body
go, if their value has been added to him in the shape
of power. If he have secured the elixir, he can
spare the wide gardens from which it was distilled.
A cultivated man, wise to knoAv and bold to per-
46 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
form, is the end to which nature works, and the
education of the will is the flowering and result of
all this geology and astronomy.
All successful men have agreed in one thing, —
they were causationists. They believed that things
went not by luck, but by law ; that there was not
a weak or a cracked link in the chain that joins the
first and last of things. A belief in causality, or
strict connection between every trifle and the prin-
ciple of being, and, in consequence, belief in com-
pensation, or, that nothing is got for nothing, —
characterizes all valuable minds, and must control
every effort that is made by an industrious one.
The most valiant men are the best believers in
the tension of the laws. " All the great cap-
tains," said Bonaparte, " have performed vast
achievements by conforming with the rules of the
art, — by adjusting efforts to obstacles."
The key to the age may be this, or that, or the
other, as the young orators describe ; — the key to
all ages is — Imbecility ; imbecility in the vast
majority of men, at all times, and, even in heroes,
in all but certain eminent moments ; victims of
gravity, custom, and fear. This gives force to the
strong, — that the multitude have no habit of self-
reliance or original action.
We must reckon success a constitutional trait.
Courage, — the old physicians taught, (and their
meaning holds, if their physiology is a little myth-
ical,) — courage, or the degree of life, is as the de-
gree of circulation of the blood in the arteries.
" During passion, anger, furj, trials of strength,
wrestling, fighting, a large amount of blood is col-
lected in the arteries, the maintenance of bodily-
strength requiring it, and but little is sent into the
veins. This condition is constant with intrepid
persons." Where the arteries hold their blood, is
courage and adventure possible. Where they pour
it unrestrained into the veins, the spirit is low and
feeble. For performance of great mark, it needs
extraordinary health. If Eric is in robust health,
and has slept well, and is at the top of his con-
dition, and thirty years old, at his departure from
Greenland, he will steer west, and his ships will
reach Newfoundland. But take out Eric, and put
in a stronger and bolder man, — Biorn, or Thorfin,
— and the ships will, with just as much ease,
sail six hundred, one thousand, fifteen hundred
miles further, and reach Labrador and New Eng-
land. There is no chance in results. With adults,
as with children, one class enter cordially into the
game, and whirl with the whirling world ; the
others have cold hands, and remain bystanders ; or
are only dragged in by the humor and vivacity of
those who can carry a dead weight. The first
wealth is health. Sickness is poor-spirited, and
cannot serve any one : it must husband its resources
to live. But health or fulness answers its own ends,
48 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
and has to spare, runs over, and inundates the neigh-
borhoods and creeks of other men's necessities.
All power is of one kind, a sharing of the nature
of the world. The mind that is parallel with the
laws of nature will be in the current of events, and
strong with their strength. One man is made of
the same stuff of which events are made ; is in
sympathy with the course of things ; can predict it.
Whatever befalls, befalls him first ; so that he is
equal to whatever shall happen. A man who knows
men, can talk well on politics, trade, law, war, re-
ligion. For, everywhere, men are led in the same
The advantage of a strong pulse is not to be sup-
plied by any labor, art, or concert. It is like the
climate, which easily rears a crop, which no glass,
or irrigation, or tillage, or manures, can elsewhere
rival. It is like the opportunity of a city like New
York, or Constantinople, which needs no diplomacy
to force capital or genius or labor to it. They come
of themselves, as the waters flow to it. So a broad,
healthy, massive understanding seems to lie on the
shore of unseen rivers, of unseen oceans, which are
covef-ed with barks, that, night and day, are drifted
to this point. That is poured into its lap, which
other men lie plotting for. It is in everybody's
secret ; anticipates everybody's discovery ; and if it
do not command every fact of the genius and the
scholar, it is because it is large and sluggish, and
does not think them worth the exertion which you
This affirmative force is in one, and is not in
another, as one horse has the spring in him, and
another in the whip. " On the neck of the young
man," said Hafiz, " sparkles no gem so gracious as
enterprise." Import into any stationary district,
as into an old Dutch population in New York or
Pennsylvania, or among the planters of Virginia,
a colony of hardy Yankees, with seething brains,
heads full of steam-hammer, pulley, crank, and
toothed wheel, — and everything begins to shine
with values. What enhancement to all the water
and land in England, is the arrival of James Watt
or Brunei! In every company, there is not only
the active and passive sex, but, in both men and
women, a deeper and more important sex of mind,
namely, the inventive or creative class of both men
and women, and the uninventive or accepting class.
Each plus man represents his set, and, if he have
the accidental advantage of personal ascendency, —
which implies neither more nor less of talent, but
merely the temperamental or taming eye of a soldier
or a schoolmaster, (which one has, and one has not,
as one has a black moustache and one a blond,)
then quite easily and without envy or resistance, all.
his coadjutors and feeders will admit his right to
absorb them. The merchant works by book-keeper
and cashier ; the lawyer's authorities are hunted up
50 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
by clerks ; the geologist reports the surveys of his
subalterns ; Commander Wilkes appropriates the
results of all the naturalists attached to the Expe-
dition ; Thorwaldsen's statue is finished by stone-
cutters ; Dumas has journeymen ; and Shakspeare
was theatre-manager, and used the labor of many
young men, as well as the playbooks.
There is always room for a man of force, and
he makes room for many. Society is a troop of
thinkers, and the best heads among them take the
best places. A feeble man can see the farms that
are fenced and tilled, the houses that are built.
The strong man sees the possible houses and farms.
His eye makes estates, as fast as the sun breeds
When a new boy comes into school, when a
man travels, and encounters strangers every day,
or, when into any old club a new comer is domes-
ticated, that happens which befalls, when a strange
ox is driven into a pen or pasture where cattle are
kept; there is at once a trial of strength between
the best pair of horns and the new comer, and it is
settled thenceforth which is the leader. So now,
there is a measuring of strength, very courteous,
but decisive, and an acquiescence thenceforward
when these two meet. Each reads his fate in the
other's eyes. The weaker party finds, that none
of his information or wit quite fits the occasion.
He thought he knew this or that : he finds that he
omitted to learn the end of it. Nothing that he
knows will quite hit the mark, whilst all the rival's
arrows are good, and well thrown. But if he knew
all the facts in the encyclopaedia, it would not help
him : for this is an affair of presence of mind, of
attitude, of aplomb : the opponent has the sun and
wind, and, in every cast, the choice of weapon and
mark ; and, when he himself is matched with some
other antagonist, his own shafts fly well and hit.
'Tis a question of stomach and constitution. The
second man is as good as the first, — perhaps better;
but has not stoutness or stomach, as the first has,
and so his wit seems over-fine or under-fine.
Health is good, — power, life, that resists disease,
poison, and all enemies, and is conservative, as
well as creative. Here is question, every spring,
whether to graft with wax, or whether with clay ;
whether to whitewash or to potash, or to prune ; but
the one point is the thrifty tree. A good tree, that
agrees with the soil, will grow in spite of blight, or
bug, or pruning, or neglect, by night and by day, in
all weathers and all treatments. Vivacity, leader-
ship, must be had, and we are not allowed to be
nice in choosing. We must fetch the pump with
dirty water, if clean cannot be had. If we will
make bread, we must have contagion, yeast, empty-
ings, or what not, to induce fermentation into the
dough : as the torpid artist seeks inspiration at any
cost, by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by
52 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
prayer or by wine. And we have a certain instinct,
that where is great amount of life, though gross and
peccant, it has its own checks and purifications, and
will be found at last in harmony with moral laws.
We watch in children with pathetic interest, the
degree in which they possess recuperative force.
When they are hurt by us, or by each other, or go
to the bottom of the class, or miss the annual prizes,
or are beaten in the game, — if they lose heart, and
remember the mischance in their chamber at home,
they have a serious check. But if they have the
buoyancy and resistance that preoccupies them with
new interest in the new moment, — the wounds
cicatrize, and the fibre is the tougher for the hurt.
One comes to value this plits health, when he
sees that all difficulties vanish before it. A timid
man listening to the alarmists in Congress, and in
the newspapers, and observing the profligacy of
party, — sectional interests urged with a fury which
shuts Its eyes to consequences, with a mind made
up to desperate extremities, ballot in one hand, and
rifle in the other, — might easily believe that he
and his country have seen their best days, and he
hardens himself the best he can against the com-
ing ruin. But, after this has been foretold with
equal confidence fifty times, and government six per
cents have not declined a quarter of a mill, he dis-
covers that the enormous elements of strength
which are here in play, make our politics imim-
portant. Personal power, freedom, and the re-
sources of nature strain every faculty of every
citizen. We prosper with such vigor, that, like
thrifty trees, which grow in spite of ice, lice, mice,
and borers, so we do not suffer from the profligate
swarms that fatten on the national treasury. The
huge animals nourish huge parasites, and the rancor
of the diseage attests the strength of the constitu-
tion. The same energy in the Greek Demos drew
the remark, that the evils of popular government
appear greater than they are ; there is compensa-
tion for them in the spirit and energy it awakens.
The rough and ready style which belongs to a
people of sailors, foresters, farmers, and mechanics,
has its advantages. Power educates the potentate.
As long as our people quote English standards
they dwarf their own proportions. A Western
lawyer of eminence said to me he wished it were
a penal offence to bring an English law-book into a
court in this country, so pernicious had he found in
his experience our deference to English precedent.
The very word ' commerce ' has only an English
meaning, and is pinched to the cramp exigencies
of English experience. The commerce of rivers,
the commerce of railroads, and who knows but the
commerce of air-balloons, must add an American
extension to the pond-hole of admiralty. As long
as our people quote English standards, they will miss
the sovereignty of power ; but let these rough riders.
54 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
— legislators in shirt-sleeves, — Hoosier, Sucker,
Wolverine, Badger, — or whatever hard head Ar-
kansas, Oregon, or Utah sends, half orator, half
assassin, to represent its wrath and cupidity at
Washington, — let these drive as they may; and
the disposition of territories and public lands, the
necessity of balancing and keeping at bay the
snarling majorities of German, Irish, and of na-
tive millions, will bestow promptness, address, and
reason, at last, on our buffalo-hunter, and authority
and majesty of manners. The instinct of the people
is right. Men expect from good whigs, put into
office by the respectability of the country, much less
skill to deal with Mexico, Spain, Britain, or w^th
our own malcontent members, than from some
strong transgressor, like Jefferson, or Jackson, who
first conquers his own government, and then uses
the same genius to conquer the foreigner. The
senators who dissented from Mr. Polk's Mexican
war, were not those who knew better, but those
who, from political position, could afford it ; not
Webster, but Benton and Calhoun.
This power, to be sure, is not clothed in satin.
'Tis the power of Lynch law, of soldiers and pi-
rates ; and it bullies the peaceable and loyal. But
it brings its own antidote ; and here is my point, —
that all kinds of power usually emerge at the same
time ; good energy, and bad ; power of mind, with
physical health ; the ecstasies of devotion, with the
exasperations of debauclieiy. The same elements
are always present, only sometimes these con-
spicuous, and sometimes those ; what was yesterday
foreground, being to-day background, — what was
surface, playing now a not less effective part as
basis. The longer the drought lasts, the more is
the atmosphere surcharged with water. The faster
the ball falls to the sun, the force to fly oif is by so
much augmented. And, in morals, wild liberty
breeds iron conscience ; natures with great impulses
have great resources, and return from far. In poli-
tics, the sons of democrats will be wliigs ; whilst red
republicanism, in the father, is a spasm of nature
to Qpgender an intolerable tyrant in the next age.
On the other hand, conservatism, ever more tim-
orous and narrow, disgusts the children, and drives
them for a mouthful of fresh air into radicalism.
Those who have most of this coarse energy, —
the ' bruisers,' who have run the gauntlet of caucus
and tavern through the county or the state, have
their own vices, but they have the good nature of
strength and courage. Fierce and unscrupulous,
they are usually frank and direct, and above false-
hood. Our politics fall into bad hands, and church-
men and men of refinement, it seems agreed, are
not fit persons to send to Congress. Politics is a
deleterious profession, like some poisonous handi-
crafts. Men in power have no opinions, but may
be had cheap for any opinion, for any purpose, —
56 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
and if it be jonly a question between the most civil
and tlie most forcible, I lean to the last. These
Hoosiers and Suckers are really better than the
snivelling opposition. Their wrath is at least of a
bold and manly cast. They see, against the unani-
mous declarations of the people, how much crime
the people will bear ; they proceed from step to step,
and they have calculated but too justly upon their
Excellencies, the New England governors, and upon
their Honors, the New England legislators. The
messages of the governors and the resolutions of the
legislatures, are a proverb for expressing a sham vir-
tuous indignation, which, in the course of events,
is sure to be belied. .
In trade, also, this energy usually carries a trace
of ferocity. Philanthropic and religious bodies do
not commonly make their executive officers out
of saints. The communities hitherto founded by
Socialists, — the Jesuits, the Port-Royalists, the
American communities at New Harmony, at Brook
Farm, at Zoar, are only possible, by installing Judas
as steward. The rest of the offices may be filled
by good burgesses. The pious and charitable pro-
prietor has a foreman not quite so pious and char-
itable. The most amiable of country gentlemen has
a certain pleasure in the teeth of the bull-dog which
guards his orchard. Of the Shaker society, it was
formerly a sort of proverb in the country, that they
always sent the devil to market. And in repre-
POWEK. . 67
sentations of the Deity, painting, poetry, and pop-
ular relicrion have ever drawn the wrath from Hell.
It is an esoteric doctKine of society, that a little
wickedness is good to make muscle ; as if conscience
were not good for hands and legs, as if poor de-
cayed formalists of law and order cannot run like
wild goats, wolves, and conies ; that, as there is a
use in medicine for poisons, so the world cannot
move without rogues ; that public spirit and the
ready hand are as well found among the malig-
nants. 'Tis not very rare, the coincidence of sharp
private and political practice, with public spirit, and
I knew a burly Boniface who for many ySars
kept a public-house in one of our rural capitals.
He was a knave whom the town could ill spare.
He was a social, vascular creature, grasping and
selfish. There was no crime which he did not or
could not commit. But he made good friends of
the selectmen, served them wdth his best chop, when
they supped at his house, and also with his honor
the Judge, he was very cordial, grasping his hand.
He introduced all the fiends, male and female, into
the town, and united in his person the functions of
bully, incendiary, swindler, barkeeper, and burglar.
He girdled the trees, and cut off the horses' tails of
the temperance people, in the night. He led the
' rummies ' and radicals in town-meeting with a
speech. Meantime, he was civil, fat, and easy, in
58 • CONDUCT OF LIFE.
his house, and precisely the most pubKc-spii'ited
citizen. He was active in getting the roads re-
paired and planted with shade-trees ; he subscribed
for the fountains, the gas, and the telegraph ; he
introduced the new horse-rake, the new scraper, the
baby-jumper, and what not, that Connecticut sends
to the admiring citizens. He did this the easier,
that the peddler stopped at his house, and paid his
keeping, by setting up his new trap on the land-
Whilst thus the energy for originating and exe-
cuting work, deforms itself by excess, and so our
axe chops off our own fingers, — this evil is not
without remedy. All the elements whose aid man
calls in, will sometimes become his masters, espe-
cially those of most subtle force. Shall he, then,
renounce steam, fire, and electricity, or, shall he
learn to deal with them ? The rule for this whole
class of agencies is, — all plus is good ; only put
it in the right place.
Men of this surcharge of arterial blood cannot
live on nuts, herb-tea, and elegies ; cannot read
novels, and play whist ; cannot satisfy all their
wants at the Thursday Lecture, or the Boston
Athenaeum. They pine for adventure, and must
go to Pike's Peak ; had rather die by the hatchet
of a Pawnee, than sit all day and every day at a
counting-room desk. They are made for war, for
the sea, for mining, hunting, and clearing ; for
hair-breadth adventures, huge risks, and the joy of
eventful hving. Some men cannot endure an hour
of calm at sea. I remember a poor Malay cook, on
board a Liverpool packet, who, when the wind blew
a gale, could not contain his joy ; " Blow ! " he
cried, " me do tell you, blow ! " Their friends and
C-overnors must see that some vent for their ex-
plosive complexion is provided. The roisters who
are destined for infamy at home, if sent to Mexico,
will " cover you with glory," and come back heroes
and generals. There are Oregons, Californias,
and Exploring Expeditions enough appertaining to
America, to find them in files to gnaw, and in
crocodiles to eat. The young English are fine ani-
mals, full of blood, and when they have no wars to
Ijreathe their riotous valors in, they seek for travels
as dangerous as war, diving into Maelstroms ; swim-
ming Hellesponts ; wading up the snowy Himmaleh ;
hunting lion, rhinoceros, elephant, in South Africa ;
gypsy ing with Borrow in Spain and Algiers ; riding
alligators in South America with Waterton ; util-
izing Bedouin, Sheik, and Pacha, with Layard ;
yachting among the icebergs of Lancaster Sound ;
peeping into craters on the equator ; or running on
the creases of Malays in Borneo.
The excess of virility has the same importance
in general history, as in private and industrial life.
Strong race or strong individual rests at last on nat-
ural forces, which are best in the savage, who, like
60 CONDtCT OF LIFE.
the beasts around him, is still in reception of the
milk from the teats of Nature. Cut off the con-
nection between any of our works, and this aborig-
inal source, and the work is shallow. The people
lean on this, and the mob is not quite so bad an
argument as we sometimes say, for it has this good
side. " March without the people," said a French
deputy from the tribune, " and you march into
night : their instincts are a finger-pointing of Provi-
dence, always turned toward real benefit. But
when you espouse an Orleans party, or a Bourbon,
or a Montalembert party, or any other but an or-
ganic party, though you mean well, you have a per-
sonality instead of a principle, which will inevitably
drag you into a corner."
The best anecdotes of this force are to be had
from savage life, in explorers, soldiers, and bucca-
neers. But who cares for fallings-out of assassins,
and fights of bears, or grindings of icebergs ? Phys-
ical force has no value, where there is nothing
else. Snow in snow-banks, fire in volcanoes and
solfataras is cheap. The luxury of ice is in tropical
countries, and midsummer days. The luxury of fire
is, to have a. little on our hearth : and of electricity,
not volleys of the charged cloud, but the manage-
able stream on the battery- wires. So of spirit,
or energy; the rests or remains of it in the civil
and moral mafi, are worth all the cannibals in the
In history, the great moment is, when the savage
is just ceasing to be a savage, with all his hairy
Pelasgic strength directed on his opening sense
of beauty : — and you have Pericles and Phidias,
— not yet passed over into the Corinthian civil-
ity. Everything good in nature and the world
is in that moment of transition, when the swarthy
juices still flow plentifully from nature, but their
astringency or acridity is got out by ethics and
The triumphs of peace have been in some J)rox-
imity to war. Whilst the hand was still familiar
with the sword-hilt, whilst the habits of the camp
were still visible in the port and complexion of the
gentleman, his intellectual power culminated : the
compression and tension of these stern conditions is
a training for the finest and softest arts, and can
rarely be. compensated in tranquil times, except by
some analogous vigor drawn from occupations as
hardy as war.
We say that success is constitutional ; depends on
a jplus condition of mind and body, on power of
work, on courage ; that it is of main efficacy in car-
rying on the world, and, though rarely found in the
right state for an article of commerce, but oftener in
the supersaturate or excess, which makes it danger-
ous and destructive, yet it cannot be spared, and
must be had in that form, and absorbents provided
to take off its edge.
62 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
The affirmative class monopolize the homage of
mankind. They originate and execute all the great
feats. What a force was coiled up in the skull of
Napoleon ! Of the sixty thousand men making his
army at Eylau, it seems some thirty thousand were
thieves and burglars. The men whom, in peaceful
communities, we hold if we can, with iron at their
legs, in prisons, under the muskets of sentinels, this
man dealt with, hand to hand, dragged them to
their duty, and won his victories by their bayonets.
This aboriginal might gives a surprising pleasure
when it appears under conditions of supreme refine-
ment, as in the proficients in high art. When
Michel Angelo was forced to paint the Sistine
Chapel in fresco, of which art he knew nothing,
he went down into the Pope's gardens behind the
Vatican, and with a shovel dug out ochres, red and
yellow, mixed them with glue and water with his
own hands, and having, after many trials, at last
suited himself, climbed his ladders, and painted
away, week after week, month after month, the
sibyls and prophets. He surpassed his successors
in rough vigor, as much as in purity of intellect and
refinement. He was not crushed by his one picture
left unfinished at last. Michel was wont to draw
his figures first in skeleton, then to clothe them with
flesh, and lastly to drape them. " Ah ! " said a
brave painter to me, thinking on these things, "if
a man has failed, you will find he has dreamed
ihstead of working. There is no way to success in
our art, but to take off your coat, grind paint, and
work like a digger on the railroad, all day and every
Success goes thus invariably with a certain plus
or positive power : an ounce of power must balance
an ounce of weight. And, though a man cannot
return into his mother's womb, and be born with
new amounts of vivacity, yet there are two econo-
mies, which are the best succedanea which the case
admits. The first is, the stopping off decisively
our miscellaneous activity, and concentrating our
force on one or a few points ; as the gardener, by
severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one
or two vigorolis limbs, instead of suffering it to
spindle into a sheaf of twigs.
" Enlarge not thy destiny," said the oracle :
" endeavor not to do more than is given thee in
charge." The one prudence in life is concentra-
tion ; the one evil is dissipation : and it makes no
difference whether our dissipations are coarse or
fine ; property and its cares, friends, and a social
habit, or politics, or music, or feasting. Everything
is good which takes away one plaything and delu-
sion more, and drives us home to add one stroke
of faithful work. Friends, books, pictures, lower
duties, talents, flatteries, hopes, — all are distrac-
tions which cause oscillations in our giddy balloon »
and make a good poise and a straight course impos-
64 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
sible. You must elect your work ; you shall take
what your brain can, and drop all the rest. Only
so, can that amount of vital force accumulate, which
can make the step from knowing to doing. No mat-
ter how much faculty of idle seeing a man has, the
step from knowing to doing is rarely taken. 'Tis a
step out of a chalk circle of imbecility into fruitful-
ness. Many an artist lacking this, lacks all : he sees
the masculine Angelo or Cellini with despair. He,
too, is up to Nature and the First Cause in his
thought. But the spasm to collect and swing his
whole being into one act, he has not. The poet
Campbell said, that " a man accustomed to work
was equal to any achievement he resolved on, and,
that, for himself, necessity not inspiration was the
prompter of his muse."
Concentration is the secret of strength in politics,
in war, in trade, in short, in all management of hu-
man affairs. One of the high anecdotes of the
world is the reply of Newton to the inquiry, " how
he had been able to achieve his discoveries ? " —
" By always intending my mind." Or if you will
have a text from politics, take this from Plutarch :
" There was, in the whole city, but one street in
which Pericles was ever seen, the street which led
to the market-place and the council house. He
declined all invitations to banquets, and all gay
assemblies and company. During the whole period
of his administration, he never dined at the table
of a friend." Or if we seek an example from trade,
— "I hope," said a good man to Rothschild, " your
children are not too fond of money and business :
I am sure you would not wish that." — "I am
sure I should wish that : I wish them to give
mind, soul, heart, and body to business, — that is
the way to be happy. It requires a great deal of
boldness and a great deal of caution, to make a
great fortune, and when you have got it, it requires
ten times as much wit to keep it. If I were to
listen to all the projects proposed to me, I should
ruin myself very soon. Stick to one business,
young man. Stick to your brewery, (he said this
to young Buxton,) and you will be the great brewer
of London. Be brewer, and banker, and merchant,
and manufacturer, and you will soon be in the
Many men are knowing, many are apprehensive
and tenacious, but they do not rush to a decision.
But in our flowing affairs a decision must be made,
— the best, if you can ; but any is better than
none. There are twenty ways of going to a point,
and one is the shortest ; but set out at once on
one. A man who has that presence of mind which
can bring to him on the instant all he knows, is
worth for action a dozen men who know as much,
but can only bring it to light slowly. The good
Speaker in the House is not the man who knows
the theory of parliamentary tactics, but the man
66 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
who decides off-hand. The good judge is not
he who does hair-splitting justice to every allega-
tion, but who, aiming at substantial justice, rules
something intelligible for the guidance of suitors.
The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to
every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies
all his qualifications, but who throws himself on
your part so heartily, that he can get you out of a
scrape. Dr. Johnson said, in one of his flowing
sentences, " Miserable beyond all names of wretch-
edness is that unhappy pair, who are doomed to
reduce beforehand to the principles of abstract rea-
son all the details of each domestic day. There are
cases where little can be said, and much must be
The second substitute for temperament is drill,
the power of use and routine. The hack is a better
roadster than the Arab barb. In chemistry, the
galvanic stream, slow, but continuous, is equal in
power to the electric spark, and is, in our arts,
a better agent. So in human action, against the
spasm of energy, we offset the continuity of drill.
We spread the same amount of force over much
time, instead of condensing it into a moment. 'Tis
the same ounce of gold here in a ball, and there in
a leaf. At West Point, Col. Buford, the chief en-
gineer, pounded with a hammer on the trunnions of
a cannon, until he broke them off. He fired a piece
of ordnance some hundred times in swift succession.
until it burst. Now which stroke broke the trun-
nion ? Every stroke. Which blast burst the piece ?
Every blast. " Diligence passe sens J"* Henry
VIII. was wont to say, or, great is drill. John
Kemble said, that the worst provincial company
of actors would go through a play better than
the best amateur company. Basil Hall likes to
show that the worst regular troops will beat the
best volunteers. Practice is nine tenths. A course
of mobs is good practice for orators. All the
great speakers were bad speakers at first. Stump-
ing it through England for seven years, made
Cobden a consummate debater. Stumping it
through New England for twice seven, trained
Wendell Phillips. The way to learn German,
is, to read the same dozen pages over and over
a hundred times, till you know every word and
particle in them, and can pronounce and repeat
them by heart. No genius can recite a ballad at
first reading, so well as mediocrity can at the fif-
teenth or twentieth reading. The rule for hospi-
tality and Irish 'help,' is, to have the same dinner
every • day throughout the year. At last, Mrs.
O'Shaughnessy learns to cook it to a nicety, the
host learns to carve it, and the guests are well
served. A humorous friend of mine thinks, that
the reason why Nature is so perfect in her art, and
gets up such inconceivably fine sunsets, is, that she
has learned how, at last, by dint of doing the same
68 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
tiling SO very often. Cannot one converse better
on a topic on which he has experience, than on one
which is new ? Men whose opinion is valued on
'Change, are only such as have a special experience,
and off that ground their opinion is not valuable.
" More are made good by exercitation, than by na-
ture," said Democritus. The fi'iction in nature is
so enormous that we cannot spare any power. It
is not question to express our thought, to elect our
way, but to overcome resistances of the medium
and material in everything we do. Hence the use
of drill, and the worthlessness of amateurs to cope
with practitioners. Six hours every day at the
piano, only to give facility of touch ; six hours a
day at painting, only to give command of the odious
materials, oil, ochres, and brushes. The masters
say, that they know a master in music, only by see-
ing the pose of the hands on the keys ; — so difficult
and vital an act is the command of the instni-
ment. To have learned the use of the tools, by
thousands of manipulations ; to have learned the
arts of reckoning, by endless adding and dividing,
is the power of the mechanic and the clerk,
I remarked in England, in confirmation of a fre-
quent experience at home, that, in literary circles,
the men of trust and consideration, bookmakers,
editors, university deans and professors, bishops, too,
were by no means men of the largest literary tal-
ent, but usually of a low and ordinary intellectual-
ity, with a sort of mercantile activity and working
talent. Indifferent hacks and mediocrities tower,
by pushing their forces to a lucrative point, or by
working power, over multitudes of superior men, in
Old as in New England.
I have not forgotten that there are sublime con-
siderations which Hmit the value of talent and super-
ficial success. We can easily overpraise the vulgar
hero. There are sources on which we have not
drawn. I know what I abstain from. I adjourn
what I have to say on this topic to the chapters on
Culture and Worship. But this force or spirit, be-
ing the means relied on by Nature for bringing the
work of the day about, — as far as we attach im-
portance to household life, and the prizes of the
world, we must respect that. And I hold, that an
economy may be applied to it ; it is as much a sub-
ject of exact law and arithmetic as fluids and gases
are ; it may be husbanded, or wasted ; every man
is efficient only as he is a container or vessel of this
force, and never was any signal act or achievement in
history, but by this expenditure. This is not gold,
but the gold-maker ; not the fame, but the exploit.
If these forces and this husbandry are within
reach of our will, and the laws of them can be read,
we infer that all success, and all conceivable benefit
for man, is also, first or last, within his reach, and
has its own sublime economies by which it may be
attained. The world is mathematical, and has no
70 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
casualty, in all its vast and flowing curve. Success
has no more eccentricity, than the gingham and
muslin we weave in our mills. I know no more
affecting lesson to our busy, plotting New England
brains, than to go into one of the factories with
which we have lined all the watercourses in the
States. A man hardly knows how much he is a
machine, until he begins to make telegraph, loom,
press, and locomotive, in his own image. But in
these, he is forced to leave out his follies and hin-
drances, so that when we go to the mill, the ma-
chine is more moral than we. Let a man dare
go to a loom, and see if he be equal to it. Let
machine confront machine, and see how they come
out. The world-mill is more complex than the
calico-mill, and the architect stooped less. In the
gingham-mill, a broken thread or a shred spoils the
web through a piece of a hundred yards, and is
traced back to the girl that wove it, and lessens her
wages. The stockholder, on being shown this, rubs
his hands with delight. Are you so cunning, Mr.
Profitless, and do you expect to swindle your
master and employer, in the web you weave ? A
day is a more magnificent cloth than any muslin,
the mechanism that makes it is infinitely cunninger,
and you shall not conceal the sleezy, fraudulent,
rotten hours you have slipped into the piece, nor
fear that any honest thread, or straighter steel, or
more inflexible shaft, will not testify in the web.
Who shall tell what did befall,
Far away in time, when once,
Over the lifeless ball.
Hung idle stars and suns?
What god the element obeyed?
Wings of what wind the lichen bore,
Wafting the puny seeds of power.
Which, lodged in rock, the rock abrade?
And well the primal pioneer
Knew the strong task to it assigned '
Patient through Heaven's enormous year
To build in matter home for mind.
From air the creeping centuries drew
The matted thicket low and wide,
This must the leaves of ages strew
The granite slab to clothe and hide.
Ere wheat can wave its golden pride.
What smiths, and in what furnace, rolled
(In dizzy aeons dim and mute
The reeling brain can ill compute)
Copper and iron, lead, and gold ?
What oldest star the fame can save
Of races perishing to pave
72 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
The planet with a floor of lime?
Dust is their pyramid and mole :
Who saw what ferns and palms were pressed
Under the tumbling mountain's breast,
In the safe herbal of the coal?
But when the quarried means were piled,
All is waste and worthless, till
Arrives the wise selecting will,
And, out of slime and chaos, Wit
Draws the threads of fair and fit.
Then temples rose, and towns, and marts,
The shop of toil, the hall of arts ;
Then flew the sail across the seas
To feed the North from tropic trees;
The storm-wind wore, the torrent span,
Where they were bid the rivers ran;
New slaves fulfilled the poet's dream,
Galvanic wire, strong-shouldered steam.
Then docks were built, and crops were stored,
And ingots added to the hoard.
But, though light-headed man forget,
Remembering Matter pays her debt :
Still, through her motes and masses, draw
Electric thrills and ties of Law,
Which bind the strengths of Nature wild
To the conscience of a child.
As soon as a stranger is introduced into any
company, one of the first questions which all wish
to have answered, is, How does that man get his
living? And with reason. He is no whole man
until he knows how to earn a blameless livelihood.
Society is barbarous, until every industrious man
can get his living without dishonest customs.
Every man is a consumer, and ought to be a
producer. He fails to make his place good in the
world, unless he not only pays his debt, but also
adds something to the common wealth. Nor can he
do justice to his genius, without making some larger
demand on the world than a bare subsistence. He
is by constitution expensive^ and needs to be rich.
Wealth has its source in applications of the mind
to nature, from the rudest strokes of spade and axe,
up to the last secrets of art. Intimate ties subsist
between thought and all production ; because a
better order is equivalent to vast amounts of brute
labor. The forces and the resistances are Nature's,
but the mind acts in bringing things from where
they abound to where they are wanted ; in wise
74 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
combining ; in directing the practice of the useful
arts, and in the creation of finer vahies, by fine art,
by eloquence, by song, or the reproductions of mem-
ory. Wealth is in applications of mind to nature ;
and the art of getting rich consists not in industry,
much less in saving, but in a better order, in time-
liness, in being at the right spot. One man has
stronger arms, or longer legs ; another sees by the
course of streams, and growth of markets, where
land will be wanted, makes a clearing to the river,
goes to sleep, and wakes up rich. Steam is no
stronger now, than it was a hundred years ago ;
but is put to better use. A clever fellow was
acquainted with the expansive force of steam ; he
also saw the wealth of wheat and grass rotting
in Michigan. Then he cunningly screws on the
steam-pipe to the wheat-crop. Puff now, O Steam !
The steam puffs and expands as before, but this
time it is dragging all Michigan at its back to
hungry New York and hungry England. Coal lay
in ledges under the ground since the Flood, until a
laborer with pick and windlass brings it to the sur-
face. We may well call it black diamonds. Every
basket is power and civilization. For coal is a port-
able climate. It carries the heat of the tropics to
Labrador and the polar circle : and it is the means
of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted.
Watt and Stephenson whispered in the ear of man-
kind their secret, that a half-ounce of coal will draw
two tons a mile^ and coal carries coal, by rail and by
boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta, and
with its comfort brings its industrial power.
When the farmer's peaches are taken from under
the tree, and carried into town, they have a new
look, and a hundredfold value over the fruit which
grew on the same bough, and lies fulsomely on the
ground. The craft of the merchant is this bringing
a thing from where it abounds, to where it is costly.
Wealth begins in a tight roof that keeps the
rain and wind out ; in a good pump that yields
you plenty of sweet water ; in two suits of clothes,
so to change your dress when you are wet ; in
dry sticks to burn ; in a good double-wick lamp ;
and three meals ; in a horse, or a locomotive, to
cross the land ; in a boat to cross the sea ; in tools
to work with ; in books to read ; and so, in giving,
on all sides, by tools and auxiliaries, the greatest
possible extension to our powers, as if it added feet,
and hands, and eyes, and blood, length to the day,
and knowledge, and good-will.
Wealth begins with these articles of necessity.
And here we must recite the iron law which Na-
ture thunders in these northern climates. First,
she requires that each man should feed himself.
If, happily, his fathers have left him no inher-
itance, he must go to work, and by making his
wants less, or his gains more, he must draw himself
out of that state of pain and insult in which she
76 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
forces the beggar to lie. She gives him no rest until
this is done : she starves, taunts, and torments him,
takes away warmth, laughter, sleep, friends, and
daylight, until he has fought his way to his own
loaf. Then, less peremptorily, but still with sting
enough, she urges him to the acquisition of such
things as belong to him. Every warehouse and
shop-window, every fruit-tree, every thought of
every hour, opens a new want to him, which it
concerns his power and dignity to gratify. It is
of no use to argue the wants down : the philos-
ophers have laid the greatness of man in making his
wants few ; but will a man content himself with a
hut and a handful of dried pease ? He is born to be
rich. He is thoroughly related ; and is tempted out
by his appetites and fancies to the conquest of this
and that piece of nature, until he finds his well-
being in the use of his planet, and of more planets
than his own. Wealth requires, besides the crust
of bread and the roof, — the freedom of the city,
the freedom of the earth, travelling, machinery, the
benefits of science, music, and fine arts, the best
culture, and the best company. He is the rich man
who can avail himself of all men's faculties. He is
the richest man who knows how to draw a benefit
from the labors of the greatest number of men, of
men in distant countries, and in past times. The
same correspondence that is between thirst in the
stomach, and water in the spring, exists between
the whole of man and the whole of nature. The
elements offer their service to him. The sea, wash-
ing the equator and the poles, offers its perilous aid,
and the power and empire that follow it, — day
by day to his craft and audacity. " Beware of
me," it says, " but if you can hold me, I am the
key to all the lands." Fire offers, on its side, an
equal power. Fire, steam, lightning, gravity, ledges
of rock, mines of iron, lead, quicksilver, tin, and
gold ; forests of all woods ; fruits of all climates ;
animals of all habits ; the powers of tillage ; the
fabrics of his chemic laboratory ; the webs of his
loom ; the masculine draught of his locomotive, the
talismans of the machine-shop ; all grand and subtile
things, minerals, gases, ethers, .passions, war, trade,
government, are his natural playmates, and, accord-
ing to the excellence of the machinery in each
human being, is his attraction for the instruments
he is to employ. The world is his tool-chest, and
he is successful, or his education is carried on just so
far, as is the marriage of his faculties with nature,
or, the degree in which he takes up things into
The strong race is strong on these terms. The
Saxons are the merchants of the world ; now, for
a thousand years, the leading race, and by nothing
more than their quality of personal independence,
and, in its special modification, pecuniary independ-
ence. No reliance for bread and games on the
78 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
government, no clanship, no patriarchal style of
living by the revenues of a chief, no marrying-
on, — no system of clientship suits them ; but every
man must pay his scot. The English are prosper-
ous and peaceable, with their habit of considering
that every man must take care of himself, and has
himself to thank, if he do not maintain and improve
his position in society.
The subject of economy mixes itself with morals,
inasmuch as it is a peremptory point of virtue that
a man's independence be secured. Poverty demor-
alizes. A man in debt is so far a slave ; and Wall-
street thinks it easy for a millionaire to be a man
of his word, a man of honor, but, that, in failing
circumstances, no man can be relied on to keep his
integrity. And when one observes in the hotels
and palaces of our Atlantic capitals, the habit of
expense, the riot of the senses, the absence of bonds,
clanship, fellow-feeling of any kind, he feels, that,
when a man or a woman is driven to the wall, the
chances of integrity are frightfully diminished, as
if virtue were coming to be a luxury which few
could afford, or, as Burke said, " at a market almost
too high for humanity." He may fix his inven-
tory of necessities and of enjoyments on what scale
he pleases, but if he wishes the power and priv-
ilege of thought, the chalking out his own career,
and having society on his own terms, he must
bring his wants within his proper power to satisfy.
The manly part is to do with might and main
what you can do. The world is full of fops who
never did anything, and who have persuaded beau-
ties and men of genius to wear their fop livery, and
these will deliver the fop opinion, that it is not
respectable to be seen earning a living ; that it is
much more respectable to spend without earning;
and this doctrine of the snake will come also from-
the elect sons of light ; for wise men are not wise
at all hours, and will speak five times from their
taste or their humor, to once from their reason.
The brave workman, who might betray his feeling
of it in his manners, if he do not succumb in his
practice, must replace the grace or elegance for-
feited, by the merit of the work done. No matter
whether he make shoes, or statues, or laws. It is
the privilege of any human work which is well
done to invest the doer with a certain haughtiness.
He can well afford not to conciiiate, whose faithful
work will answer for him. The mechanic at his
bench carries a quiet heart and assured manners,
and deals on even terms with men of any condition.
The artist has made his picture so true, that it dis-
concerts criticism. The statue is so beautiful, that
it contracts no stain from the market, but makes the
market a silent gallery for itself. The case of the
young lawyer was pitiful to disgust, — a paltry mat-
ter of buttons or tweezer-cases ; but the determined
youth saw in it an aperture to insert his dangerous
80 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
wedges, made the insignificance of the thing for-
gotten, and gave fame by his sense and energy to
the name and affairs of the Tittleton snufl'box
Society in large towns is babyish, and wealth is
made a toy. The life of pleasure is so ostentatious,
that a shallow observer must believe that this is the
agreed best use of wealth, and, whatever is pre-
tended, it ends in cosseting. But, if this were the
main use of surplus capital, it would bring us to
barricades, burned towns, and tomahawks, pres-
ently. Men of sense esteem wealth to be the
assimilation of nature to themselves, the converting
of the sap and juices of the planet to the incarna-
tion and nutriment of their design. Power is what
they want, — not candy ; — power to execute their
design, power to give legs and feet, form and ac-
tuality to their thought, which, to a clear-sighted
man, appears the end for which the Universe ex-
ists, and all its resources might be well applied.
Columbus thinks that the sphere is a problem for
practical navigation, as well as for closet geometry,
and looks on all kings and peoples . as cowardly
landsmen, until they dare fit him out. Few men
on the planet have more truly belonged to it. But
he was forced to leave much of his map blank.
His successors inherited his map, and inherited his
fury to complete it.
So the men of the mine, telegraph, mill, map,
and survey, — the monomaniacs, who talk up their
project in marts, and offices, and entreat men to
subscribe : — how did our factories get built ? how
did North America get netted with iron rails, ex-
cept by the importunity of these orators, who
dragged all the prudent men in? Is party the
madness of many for the gain of a few ? This
speculative genius is the madness of few for the gain
of the world. The projectors are sacrificed, but the
public is the gainer. Each of these idealists, work-
ing after his thought, would make it tyrannical, if
he could. He is met and antagonized by other
speculators, as hot as he. The equilibrium is pre-
served by these counteractions, as one tree keeps
down another in the forest, that it may not absorb
all the sap in the ground. And the supply in
nature of railroad presidents, copper-miners, grand-
junctioners, smoke-burners, fire-annihilators, &c.,
is limited by the same law which keeps the pro-
portion in the supply of carbon, of alum, and of
To be rich is to have a ticket of admission to the
master-works and chief men of each race. It is
to have the sea, by voyaging ; to visit the mounrr
tains, Niagara, the Nile, the desert, Rome, Paris,
Constantinople ; to see galleries, libraries, arse-
nals, manufactories. The reader of Humboldt's
" Cosmos " follows the marches of a man whose
eyes, ears, and mind are armed by all the science
82 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
arts, and implements which mankind have any-
where accumulated, and who is using these to
add to the stock. So is it with Denon, Beckford,
Belzoni, Wilkinson, Layard, Kane, Lepsius, and
Livingston. " The rich man," says Saadi, " is
everywhere expected and at home." The rich take
up something more of the world into man's life.
They include the countiy as well as the town, the
ocean-side, the White Hills, the Far West, and the
old European homesteads of man, in their notion
of available material. The world is his, who has
money to go over it. He arrives at the sea-shore,
and a sumptuous ship has floored and cai'peted for
him the stormy Atlantic, and made it a luxurious
hotel, amid the horrors of tempest?. The Persians
say, " 'Tis the same to him who wears a shoe, as if
the whole earth were covered with leather."
Kings are said to have long arms, but every man
should have long arms, and should pluck his living,
his instruments, his powe;*, and his knowing, from
the sun, moon, and stars. Is not then the demand,
to be rich legitimate ? Yet, I have never seen a
rich man. I have never seen a man as rich as all
men ought to be, or, with an adequate command of
nature. The pulpit and the press have many com-
monplaces denouncing the thirst for wealth ; but
if men should take these moralists at their word,
and leave off aiming to be rich, the moralists would
rush to rekindle at all hazards this love of power in
the people, lest civilization should be undone. Men
are urged by their ideas to acquire the command
over nature. Ages derive a culture from the
wealth of Roman Caesars, Leo Tenths, magnificent
Kings of France, Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Dukes
of Devonshire, Townleys, Vernons, and Peels, in
England ; or whatever great proprietors. It is the
interest of all men, that there should be Yaticans
and Louvres full of noble works of art ; British
Museums, and French Gardens of Plants, Phila-
delphia Academies of Natural History, Bodleian,
Ambrosian, Royal, Congressional Libraries. It is
the interest of all that there should be Explor-
ing Expeditions ; Captain Cooks to voyage round
the world, Rosses, Franklins, Richardsons, and
Kanes, to find the magnetic and the geographic
poles. We are all richer for the measurement of
a degree of latitude on the earth's surface. Our
navigation is safer for the chart. How intimately
our knowledge of the, system of the Universe
rests on that ! — and a true economy in a state
or an individual will forget its frugality in behalf
of claims like these.
Whilst it is each man's interest, that, not only
ease and convenience of living, but also wealth or
surplus product should exist somewhere, it need
not be in his hands. Often it is very undesirable
to him. Goethe said well, " nobody should be
rich but those who understand it." Some men
84 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
are born to own, and can animate all their posses-
sions. Others cannot: their owning. is not grace-
ful ; seems to be a compromise of their character :
they seem to steal their own dividends. They
should own who can administer ; not they who
hoard and conceal ; not they who, the greater pro-
prietors they are, are only the greater beggars, but
they whose work carves out work for more, opens
a path for all. For he is the rich man in whom the
people are rich, and he is the poor man in whom,
the people are poor : and how to give all access to
the masterpieces of art and nature, is the problem
of civilization. The socialism of our day has done
good service in setting men on thinking how certain
civilizing benefits, now only enjoyed by the opulent,
can be enjoyed by all. For example, the providing
to each man the means and apparatus of science,
and of the arts. There are many articles good for
occasional use, which few men are able to own.
Every man wishes to see Xhe ring of Saturn, the
satellites and belts of Jupiter and Mars ; the moun-
tains and craters in the moon : yet how few can
buy a telescope! and of those, scarcely one would
like the trouble of keeping it in order, and exhibit-
ing it. So of electrical and chemical apparatus, and
many the like things. Every man may have occa-
sion to consult books which he does not care to
possess, such as cyclopaedias, dictionaries, tables,
charts, maps, and public documents : pictures also
of birds, beasts, fishes, shells, trees, flowers, whose
names he desires to know.
There is a refining; influence from the arts of
Design on a prepared mind, which is as positive as
that of music, and not to be supplied from any
other source. But pictures, engravings, statues, and
casts, beside their first cost, entail expenses, as of
galleries and keepers for the exhibition ; and the
use which any man can make of them is rare, and
their value, too, is much enhanced by the numbers
of men who can share their enjoyment. In the
Greek cities, it was reckoned profane, that any
person should pretend a property in a work of art,
which belonged to all who could behold it. I think
sometimes, — could I only have music on my own
terms ; — could I live in a great city, and know
where 1 could go whenever I wished the ablution
sXm inundation of musical waves, — that were a
bath and a medicine.
If properties of this kind were owned by states,
towns, and lyceums, they would draw the bonds
of neighborhood closer. A town would exist to an
intellectual purpose. In Europe, where the feudal
forms secure the permanence of wealth in certain
families, those families buy and preserve these
things, and lay them open to the public. But in
America, where democratic institutions divide every
estate into small portions, after a few years, the
public should step into the place of these proprie-
86 CONDUCT OP LIFE.
tors, and provide this culture and inspiration for tlie
Man was born to be rich, or, inevitably grows
rich by the use of his faculties ; by the union of
thought with nature. Property is an intellectual*
production. The game requires coolness, right
reasoning, promptness, and patience in the players.
Cultivated labor drives out brute labor. An infi-
nite number of shrewd men, in infinite years, have
arrived at certain best and shortest ways of doing,
and this accumulated skill in arts, cultures, harvest-
ings, curings, manufactures, navigations, exchanges,
constitutes the .worth of our world to-day.
Commerce is a game of skill, which every man
cannot play, which few men can play well. The
right merchant is one who has the just average of
faculties we call common sense ; a man of a strong
affinity for facts, who makes up his decision on wmt
he has seen. He is thoroughly persuaded of the
truths of arithmetic. There is always a reason, in
the man^ for his good or bad fortune, and so, in
making money. Men talk as if there were some
magic about this, and believe in magic, in all parts
of life. He knows, that all goes on the old road,
pound for pound, cent for cent, — for every effect a
perfect cause, — and that good luck is another name
for tenacity of purpose. He insures himself in every
transaction, and likes small and sure gains. Probity
and closeness to the facts are the basis, but the mas-
ters of the art add a certain long arithmetic. The
problem is, to combine many and remote opera-
tions, with the accuracy and adherence to the facts,
which is easy in near and small transactions ; so to
arrive at gigantic results, without any compromise
of safety. Napoleon was fond of telling the story
of the Marseilles banker, who said to his visitor,
surprised at the contrast between the splendor
of the banker's chateau and hospitality, and the
meanness of the counting-room in which he had
seen him, — " Young man, you are too young to
understand how masses are fornied, — the true and
only power, — whether composed of money, water,
or men, it is all alike, — a mass is an immense
centre of motion, but it must be begun, it must be
kept up : " — and he might have added, that the
way in which it must be begun and kept up, is,
by obedience to the law of particles.
Success consists in close appliance to the laws of
the world, aiid, since those laws are intellectual and
moral, an intellectual and moral obedience. Polit-
ical Economy is as good a book wherein to read
the life of man, and the ascendency of laws over all
private and hostile influences, as any Bible which
has come down to us.
Money is representative, and follows the nature
and fortunes of the owner. The coin is a delicate
meter of civil, social, and moral changes. The
farmer is covetous of his dollar, and with reason.
88 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
It is no waif to him. He knows how many strokes
of labor it represents. His bones ache with the
day's work that earned it. He knows how much
land it represents ; — how much rain, frost, and
sunshine. He knows that, in the dollar, he gives
you so much discretion and patience, so much hoe-
ing, and threshing. Try to lift his dollar; you
must lift all that weight. In the city, where money
follows the skit of a pen, or a lucky rise in ex-
change, it comes to be looked on as light. I wish
the farmer held it dearer, and would spend it only
for real bread; force for force.
The farmer's dollar is heavy, and the clerk's is
light and nimble ; leaps out of his pocket ; jumps
on to cards and faro-tables : but still more curious
is its susceptibility to metaphysical changes. It is
the finest barometer of social storms, and announces
Every step of civil advancement makes every
man's dollar worth more. In California, the coun-
try where it grew, — what would it buy ? A few
years since, it would buy a shanty, dysentery, hun-
ger, bad company, and cnme. There are wide
countries, like Siberia, where it would buy little
else to-day, than some petty mitigation of suffering.
In Rome, it will buy beauty and magnificence.
Forty years ago, a dollar would not buy much in
Boston. Now it will buy a great deal more in our
old town, thanks to railroads, telegraphs, steamers,
and the contemporaneous growth of New York, and
the whole country. Yet there are many goods ap-
pertaining to a capital city, which are not yet pur-
chasable here, no, not with a mountain of dollars.
A dollar in Florida is not worth a dollar in Massa-
chusetts. A dollar is not value, but representative
of value, and, at last, of moral values. A dollar is
rated for the corn it will buy, or to speak strictly,
not for the com or house-room, but for Athenian
corn, and Roman house-room, — for the wit, probity,
and power, which we eat bread and dwell in houses
to share and exert. Wealth is mental ; wealth is
moral. The value of a dollar is, to buy just things :
a dollar goes on increasing in value with all the
genius, and all the virtue of the world. A dollar
in a university, is worth more than a dollar in a
jail; in a temperate, schooled, law-abiding com-
munity, than in some sink of crime, where dice,
knives, and arsenic, are in constant play.
The " Bank-Note Detector " is a useful publica-
tion. But the current dollar, silver or paper, is
itself the detector of the right and wrong where it
circulates. Is it not instantly enhanced by the in-
crease, of equity ? If a trader refuses to sell his
vote, or adheres to some odious right, he makes so
much more equity in Massachusetts ; and every acre
in the State is more worth, in the hour of his action.
If you take out of State-street the ten honestest
merchants, and put in ten roguish persons, con-
90 CONDUCT OP LIFE.
trolling the same amount of capital, — the rates of
insurance will indicate it; the soundness of banks
will show it : the highways will be less secure :
the schools will feel, it : the children will bring
home their little dose of the poison : the judge will
sit less firmly on the bench, and his decisions be
less upright ; he has lost so much support and
constraint, — which all need ; and the pulpit will
betray it, in a laxer rule of life. An apple-tree,
if you take out every day for a number of days, a
load of loam, and put in a load of sand about its
roots, — will find it out. An apple-tree is a stupid
kind of creature, but if this treatment be pursued
for a short time, I think it would begin to mistnist
something. And if you should take out of the
powerful class engaged in trade a hundred good
men, and put in a hundred bad, or, what is just the
same thing, introduce a demoralizing institution,
would not the dollar, which is not much stupider
than an apple-tree, presently find it out ? The
value of a dollar is social, as it is created by society.
Every man who removes into this city, with any
purchasable talent or skill in him, gives to every
man's labor in the city, a new worth. If a tajent is
anywhere born into the world, the community of
nations is enriched ; and, much more, with a new
degree of probity. The expense of crime, one
of the principal charges of every nation, is so far
stopped. In Europe, crime is observed to increase
or abate with the price of bread. If the Roths-
childs at Paris do not accept bills, the people at
Manchester, at Paisley, at Birmingham, are forced
into the highway, and landlords are shot down in
Ireland. The police records attest it. The vibra-
tions are presently felt in New York, New Orleans,
and Chicago. Not much otherwise, the econom-
ical power touches the masses through the political
lords. Rothschild refuses the Russian loan, and
there is peace, and the harvests are saved. He
takes it, and there is war, and an agitation through
a large portion of mankind, with every hideous
result, ending in revolution, and a new order.
Wealth brings with it its own checks and bal-
ances. The basis of political economy is non-
interference. The only safe rule is found in the
self-adjusting meter of demand and supply. Do
not legislate. Meddle, and you snap the sinews
with your sumptuary laws. Give no bounties :
make equal laws ; secure life and property, and
you need not give alms. Open the doors of oppor-
tunity to talent and virtue, and they will do them-
selves justice, and property will not be in bad hands.
In a free and just commonwealth, property rushes
from the idle and imbecile, to the industrious, brave,
The laws of nature play through trade, as a toy-
battery exhibits the effects of electricity. The level
of the sea is not more surely kept, than is the
92 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
equilibrium of value in society, by the demand and
supply : and artifice or legislation punishes itself,
by reactions, gluts, and bankruptcies. The sublime
laws play indifferently through atoms and galaxies.
Whoever knows what happens in the getting and
spending of a loaf of bread and a pint of beer ; that
no wishing will change the rigorous limits of pints
and penny loaves ; that, for all that is consumed, so
much less remains in the basket and pot ; but what
is gone out of these is not wasted, but well spent,
if it nourish his body, and enable him to finish his
task ; — knows all of political economy that the
budgets of empires can teach him. The interest of
petty economy is this symbohzation of the great
economy ; the way in which a house, and a private
man's methods, tally with the solar system, and the
laws of give and take, throughout nature ; and,
however wary we are of the falsehoods and petty
tricks which .we suicidally play off on each other,
every man has a certain satisfaction, whenever his
dealing touches on the inevitable facts ; when he
sees that things themselves dictate the price, as they
always tend to do, and, in large manufactures, are
seen to do. Your paper is not fine or coarse
enough, — is too heavy, or too thin. The manu-
facturer says, he will fiimish you with just that
thickness or thinness you want ; the pattern is quite
indifferent to him ; here is his schedule ; — any
variety of paper, as cheaper or dearer, with the
prices annexed. A pound of paper costs so much,
and you may have it made up in any pattern you
There is in all our dealings a self-regulation that
supersedes chaffering. You will rent a house, but
must have it cheap. The owner can reduce the
rent, but so he incapacitates himself from making
proper repairs, and the tenant gets not the house he
would have, but a worse one ; besides, that a rela-
tion a little injurious is established between land-
lord and tenant. You dismiss your laborer, saying,
" Patrick, I shall send for you as soon as I cannot
do without you." Patrick goes off contented, for
he knows that the weeds will grow with the pota-
toes, the vines must be planted, next week, and,
however unwilling you may be, the cantelopes,
crook-necks, and cucumbers will send for him. Who
but must wish that all labor and value should stand
on the same simple and surly market ? If it is the
best of its kind, it will. We" must have joiner,
locksmith, planter, priest, poet, doctor, cook, weav-
er, ostler; each in turn, through the year.
If a St. Michael's pear sells for a shilling, it costs
a shilling to raise it. If, in Boston, the best securi-
ties offer twelve per cent, for money, they have just
six per cent, of insecurity. You may not see that the
fine pear costs you a shilling, but it costs the commu-
nity so much. The shilling represents the number
of enemies the pear has, and the amount of risk in
94 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
ripening it. The price of coal shows the narrow-
ness of the coal-field, and a compulsory confinement
of the miners to a certain district. All salaries
are reckoned on contingent, as well as on actual
services. " If the wind were always southwest by
west," said the skipper, " women might take ships
to sea." One might say, that all things are of one
price ; that nothing is cheap or dear ; and that the
apparent disparities that strike us, are only a shop-
man's trick of concealing the damage in your bar-
gain. A youth coming into the city from his
native New Hampshire farm, with its hard fare still
fresh in his remembrance, boards at a first-class
hotel, and believes he must somehow have out-
witted Dr. Franklin and Malthus, for luxuries are
cheap. But' he pays for the one convenience of a
better dinner, by the loss of some of the richest
social and educational advantages. He has lost
what guards ! what incentives ! He will perhaps
find by and by, that he left the Muses at .the door
of the hotel, and found the Furies inside. Money
often costs too much, and power and pleasure are
not cheap. The ancient poet said, " the gods sell
all things at a fair price."
There is an example of the compensations in
the commercial history of this country. When the
European wars threw the carrying-trade of the
world, from 1800 to 1812, into American bottoms,
a seizure was now and then made of an American
ship. Of course, the loss was serious to the owner,
but the country was indemnified; for we charged
threepence a pound for carrying cotton, sixpence
for tobacco, and so on ; which paid for the risk and
loss, and brought into the country an immense pros-
perity, early mariiages, private wealth, the building
of cities, and of states : and, after the war was over,
we received compensation over and above, by treaty,
for all the seizures. Well, the Americans grew rich
and great. But the pay-day comes round. Brit-
ain, France, and Germany, which our extraordinary
profits had impoverished, send out, attracted by the
fame of our advantages, first their thousands, then
their millions, of poor people, to shai»e the crop.
At first, we employ them, and increase our pros-
perity : but, in the artificial system of society and
of protected labor, which we also have adopted and
enlarged, there come presently checks and stop-
pages. Then we refuse to employ these poor men.
But they will not so be answered. They go into
the poor rates, and, though we refuse wages, we
must now pay the same amount in the form of
taxes. Again, it turns out that the largest propor-
^^Stion of crimes are committed by foreigners. The
^^Kcost of the crime, and the expense of courts, and
^^Bbf prisons, we must bear, and the standing army
IHfof preventive police we must pay. The cost of
education of the posterity of this great colony, 1
will not compute. But the gross amount of these
96 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
costs will begin to pay back what we thought was
a net gain from our transatlantic customers of 1800.
It is vain to reftise this payment. We cannot get
rid of these people, and we cannot get rid of their
will to be supported. That has become an inevita-
ble element of our politics ; and, for their votes,
each of the dominant parties courts and assists them
to get it executed. Moreover, we have to pay,
not what would have contented them at home,
but what they have learned to think necessary
here ; so that opinion, fancy, and all manner of
moral considerations complicate the problem.
There are a few measures of economy which will
bear to be named without disgust ; for the subject
is tender, and we may easily haVe too much of it ;
and therein resembles the hideous animalcules of
which our bodies are built up, — which, offensive in
the particular, yet compose valuable and effective
masses. Our nature and genius force us to respect
ends, whilst we use means. We must use the
means, and yet, in our most accurate using, some-
how screen and cloak them, as we can only give
them any beauty, by a reflection of the glory of the
end. That is the good head, which serves the end,
and commands the means. The rabble are cor-
rupted by their means : the means are too strong for
them, and they desert their end.
1. The first of these measures is that each man's
expense must proceed from his character. As long
as your genius buys, the investment is safe, though
you spend hke a monarch. Nature arms each man
with some faculty which enables him to do easily
some feat impossible to any other, and thus makes
him necessary to society. This native determina-
tion guides his labor and his spending. He wants
an equipment of means and tools proper to his tal-
ent. And to save on this point, were to neutralize
the special strength and helpfulness of each mind.
Do your work, respecting the excellence of the
work, and not its acceptableness. This is so much
economy, that, rightly read, it is the sum of econ-
omy. Profligacy consists not in spending years of
time or chests of money, — but in spending them
off the line of year career. The crime which bank-
rupts men and states, is, job-work ; — declining from
your main design, to serve a turn here or there.
Nothing is beneath you, if it is in the direction of
your life : nothing is great or desirable, if it is off
from that. I think we are entitled here to draw a
straight line, and say, that society can never pros-
per, but must always be bankrupt, until every man
does that which he was created to do.
Spend for your expense, and retrench the expense
which is not yours. Allston, the painter, was wont
to say, that he built a plain house, and filled it with
plain furniture, because he would hold out no bribe
to any to visit him, who had not similar tastes to
98 ' CONDUCT OF LIFE.
liis own. We are sympathetic, and, like children,
want everything we see. But it is a large stride to
independence, — when a man, in the discovery of
his proper talent, has sunk the necessity for false
expenses. As the betrothed maiden, by one secure
affection, is relieved from a system of slaveries, —
the daily inculcated necessity of pleasing all, — so
the man who has found what he can do, can spend
on that, and leave all other spending. Montaigne
said, "When he was a younger brother, he went
brave in dress and equipage, but afterward his
chateau and farms might answer for him." Let
a man who belongs to the class of nobles, those,
namely, who have found out that they can do
something, relieve himself of all vague squandering
on objects not his. Let the realist not mind ap-
pearances. Let him delegate to others the costly
courtesies and decorations of social life. The vir-
tues are economists, but some of the vices are also.
Thus, next to humility, I have noticed that pride
is a pretty good husband. A good pride is, as I
reckon it, worth from five hundred to fifteen hun-
dred a year. Pride is handsome, economical :
pride eradicates so many vices, letting none sub-
sist but itself, that it seems as if it were a great
gain to exchange vanity for pride. Pride can go
without domestics, without fine clothes, can live in
a house with two rooms, can eat potato, purslain,
beans, lyed com, can work on the soil, can travel
afoot, can talk with poor men, or sit silent well-
contented in fine saloons. But vanity costs money,
labor, horses, men, women, health, and peace, and
is still nothing at last, a long way leading nowhere.
— Only one drawback ; proud people are intolera-
bly selfish, and the vain are gentle and giving.
Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a
genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or
philosophy, he makes a bad husband, and an ill pro-
vider, and should be wise in season, and not fetter
himself with duties which will embitter his days,
and spoil him for his proper work. We had in this
region, twenty years ago, among our educated men,
a sort of Arcadian fanaticism, a passionate desire to
go upon the land, and unite farming to intellec-
tual pursuits. Many effected their purpose, and
made the experiment, and some became downright
ploughmen ; but all were cured of their faith that
scholarship and practical farming, (I mean, with
one's own hands,) could be united.
With brow bent, with firm intent, the pale
scholar leaves his desk to draw a freer breath, and
get a juster statement of his thought, in the garden-
walk. He stoops to pull up a pm'slain, or a dock,
that is choking the young corn, and finds there
are two : close behind the last, is a third ; he
reaches out his hand to a fourth ; behind that, are
four thousand and one. He is heated and untuned,
and, by and by, wakes up from his idiot dream of
100 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
chickweed and red-root, to remember his morning
thought, and to find, that, with his adamantine pur-
poses, he has been duped by a dandehon. A garden
is hke those pernicious machineries we read of, every
month, in the newspapers, which catch a man's coat-
skirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg, and
his whole body to irresistible destruction. In an
evil hour he pulled down his wall, and added a
field to his homestead. No land is bad, but land is
worse. If a man own land, the land owns him.
Now let him leave home, if he dare. Every tree
and graft, every hill of melons, row of com, or
quickset hedge, all he has done, and all he means
to do, stand in his way, like duns, when he would
go out of his gate. The devotion to these vines
and trees he finds poisonous. Long fi:ee walks, a
circuit of miles, fi'ee his brain, and serve his body.
Long marches are no hardship to him. He believes
he composes easily on the hills. But this pottering
in a few square yards of garden is dispiriting and
drivelling. The smell of the plants has drugged
him, and robbed him of energy. He finds a cata-
lepsy in his bones. He grows peevish and poor-
spirited. The genius of reading and of gardening
are antagonistic, like resinous and vitreous elec-
tricity. One is concentrative in sparks and shocks :
the other is diffuse strength ; so that each disquali-
fies its workman for the other's duties.
An engraver whose hands must be of an exquisite
delicacy of stroke, should not lay stone walls. Sir
David Brewster gives exact instructions for micro-
scopic observation : — " Lie down on your back, and
hold the single lens and object over your eye," &c.
&c. How much more the seeker of abstract truth,
who needs periods of isolation, and rapt concentra-
tion, and almost a going out of the body to think !
2. Spend after your genius, and hy system. Na-
ture goes by rule, not by sallies and saltations.
There must be system in the economies. Saving
and unexpensiveness will not keep the most pa-
thetic family from ruin, nor will bigger incomes
make free spending safe. The secret of success lies
never in the amount of money, but in the relation
of income to outgo ; as if, after expense has been
fixed at a certain point, then new and steady rills
of income, though never so small, being added,
wealth begins. But in ordinary, as means increase,
spending increases faster, so that, large incomes, in
England and elsewhere, are found not to help mat-
ters ; — the eating quality of debt does not relax its
voracity. When the cholera is in the potato, what
is the use of planting larger crops ? In England,
the richest country in the universe, I was assured
by shrewd observers, that great lords and ladies
had no more guineas to give away than other peo-
ple ; that liberality with money is as rare, and as
immediately famous a virtue as it is here. Want is
a growing giant whom the coat of Have was never
102 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
large enough to cover. I remember in Warwick-
shire, to have been shown a fair manor, still in the
same name as in Shakspeare's time. The rent-roll,
I was told, is some fourteen thousand pounds a year :
but, when the second son of the late proprietor was
born, the father was perplexed how to provide for
him. The eldest son must inherit the manor ; what
to do with this supernumerary ? He was advised to
breed him for the Church, and to settle him in the
rectorship, which was in the gift of the family ;
which was done. It is a general rule in that coun-
try, that bigger incomes do not help anybody. It
is commonly observed, that a sudden wealth, like a
prize drawn in a lottery, or a large bequest to a
poor family, does not permanently enrich. They
have served no apprenticeship to wealth, and, with
the rapid wealth, come rapid claims : which they do
not know how to deny, and the treasure is quickly
A system must be in every economy, or the best
single expedients are of no avail. A farm is a
good thing, when it begins and ends with itself,
and does not need a salary, or a shop, to eke it out.
Thus, the cattle are a main link in the chain-ring.
If the non-conformist or aesthetic farmer leaves out
the cattle, and does not also leave out the want
which the cattle must supply, he must fill the gap
by begging or stealing. When men now alive were
bom, the farm yielded everything that was con-
sumed on it. The farm yielded no money, and the
farmer got on without. If he fell sick, his neigh-
bors came in to his aid : each gave a day's work ;
or a half day ; or lent his yoke of oxen, or his
horse, and kept his work even : hoed his potatoes,
mowed his hay, reaped his rye ; well knowing that
no man could afford to hire labor, without selling
his land. In autumn, a farmer could seU an ox or
a hog, and get a little money to pay taxes withal.
Now, the farmer buys almost all he consumes, —
tin-ware, cloth, sugar, tea, coffee, fish, coal, railroad-
tickets, and newspapers.
A master in each art is required, because the
practice is never with still or dead subjects, but
they change in your hands. You think farm-build-
ings and broad acres a solid property : but its value
is flowing like water. It requires as much watch-
ing as if you were decanting wine from a cask.
The farmer knows what to do with it, stops every
leak, turns all the streamlets to one reservoir, and
decants wine : but a blunderhead comes out of
Cornhill, tries his hand, and it all leaks away. So
is it with granite streets, or timber townships, as
with fruit or flowers. Nor is any investment so
permanent, that it can be allowed to remain with-
out incessant watching, as the history of each
attempt to lock up an inheritance through two
generations for an unborn inheritor may show.
When Mr. Cockayne takes a cottage in the coun-
104 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
try, and will keep his cow, he thinks a cow is a
creature that is fed on hay, and gives a pail of milk
twice a day. But the cow that he buys gives milk
for three months ; then her bag dries up. What to
do with a dry cow ? who will buy her ? Perhaps
he bought also a yoke of oxen to do his work ; but
they get blown and lame. What to do with blown
and lame oxen? The farmer fats his, after the
spring-work is done, and kills them in the fall.
But how can Cockayne, who has no pastures, and
leaves his cottage daily in the cars, at business
hours, be pothered with fatting and killing oxen ?
He plants trees ; but there must be crops, to keep
the trees in ploughed land. What shall be the
crops ? He Avill have nothing to do with trees, but
will have grass. After a year or two, the grass
must be turned up and ploughed : now what crops ?
Credulous Cockayne !
3. Help comes in the custom of the country,
and the rule of Impera parendo. The rule is not to
dictate, nor to insist on carrying out each of your
schemes by ignorant wilfdlness, but to learn prac-
tically the secret spoken from all nature, that things
themselves refuse to be mismanaged, and will show
to the watchful their own law. Nobody need stir
hand or foot. The custom of the country will do
it all. I know not how to build or to plant ;
neither how to buy wood, nor what to do with
the house-lot, the field, or the wood-lot, when
bought. Never fear : it is all settled how it shall
be, long beforehand, in the custom of the country,
whether to sand, or whether to clay it, when to
plough, and how to dress, whether to grass, or to
corn ; and you cannot help or hinder it. Nature
has her own best mode of doing each thing, and
she has somewhere told it plainly, if we will keep-
our eyes and ears open. If not, she will not be
slow in undeceiving us, when we prefer our own
way to hers. How often we must remember the
art of the surgeon, which, in replacing the broken
bone, contents itself with releasing the parts from
false position ; they fly into place by the action of
the muscles. On this art of nature all. our arts
Of the two eminent engineers in the recent con-
struction of railways in England, Mr. Brunei went
straight from terminus to terminus, through moun-
tains, over streams, crossing highways, cutting ducal
estates in two, and shooting through this man's cel-
lar, and that man's attic window, and so arriving at
his end, at great pleasure to geometers, but with
cost to his company. Mr. Stephenson, on the
contrary, believing that the river knows the way,
followed his valley, as implicitly as our Western
Railroad follows the Westfield River, and turned
out to be the safest and cheapest engineer. We say
the cows laid out Boston. Well, there are worse
surveyors. Every pedestrian in our pastures has
106 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
frequent occasion to thank the cows for cutting the
best path througli the thicket, and over the hills :
and travellers and Indians know the value of a
buffalo-trail, which is sure to be the easiest possible
pass through the ridge.
When a citizen, fresh from Dock-square, or Milk-
street, comes out and buys land in the country, his
first thought is to a fine outlook from his windows :
his library must command a western view : a sun-
set every day, batliing the shoulder of Blue Hills,
Wachusett, and the peaks of Monadnoc and Unca-
noonuc. What, thirty acres, and all this magnifi-
cence for fifteen hundi'ed dollai*s I It would be
cheap at fifty thousand. He proceeds at once, his
eyes dim with tears of joy, to fix the spot for his
comer-stone. But the man who is to level the
ground, thinks it will take many hundred loads of
gravel to fill the hollow to the road. The stone-
mason who should build the well thinks he shall
have to dig forty feet : the baker doubts he shall
never Hke to drive up to the door : the practipal
neighbor cavils at the position of the bam ; and
the citizen comes to know that his predecessor the
farmer built the house in the right spot for the
sun and wind, the spring, and water-drainage, and
the convenience to the pasture, the garden, the
field, and the road. So Dock-square yields the
point, and things have their own way. Use has
made the farmer wise, and the foolish citizen learns
to take his counsel. From step to step he comes at
last to surrender at discretion. The farmer affects
to take his orders ; hut the citizen says, You may
ask me as often as you will, and in what ingenious
forms, for an opinion concerning the mode of build-
ing my wall, or sinking my well, or laying out my
acre, but the ball will rebound to you. These are
matters on which I neither know, nor need to know
anything. These are questions which you and not
I shall answer.
Not less, within doors, a system settles itself para-
mount and tyrannical over master and mistress,
servant and child, cousin and acquaintance. 'Tis
in vain that genius or virtue or energy of character
strive and cry against it. This is fate. And 'tis
very well that the poor husband reads in a book
of a new way of living, and resolves to adopt it at
home : let him go home and try it, if he dare.
4. Another point of economy is to look for
seed of the same kind as you sow : and not to hope
to buy one kind with another kind. Friendship
buys friendship ; justice, justice ; military merit,
mihtary success. Good husbandry finds wife, chil-
dren, and household. The good merchant large
gains, ships, stocks, and money. The good poet
fame, and literary credit ; but not either, the other.
Yet there is commonly a confusion of expectations
on these points. Hotspur lives for the moment ;
praises himself for it ; and despises Furlong, that he
108 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
does not. Hotspur, of course, is poor ; and Furlong
a good provider. The odd circumstance is, that
Hotspur thinks it a superiority in himself, this
improvidence, which ought to be rewarded with
I have not at all completed my design. But we
must not leave the topic, without casting one glance
into the interior recesses. It is a doctrine of phi-
losophy, that man is a being of degrees ; that there
is nothing in the world, which is not repeated in
his body ; his body being a sort of miniature or
summary of the world : then that there is nothing
in his body, which is not repeated as in a celestial
sphere in his mind : then, there is nothing in his
brain, which is not repeated in a higher sphere, in
his moral system.
5. Now these things are so in Nature. All
things ascend, and the royal rule of economy is,
that it should ascend also, or, whatever we do must
always have a higher aim. Thus it is a maxim,
that money is another kind of blood. Pecunia alter
sanguis : or, the estate of a man is only a larger
kind of body, and admits of regimen analogous to
his bodily circulations. So there is no maxim of
the merchant, e. g.^ " Best use of money is to pay
debts;" "Every business by itself;" "Best time
is present time ; " " The right investment is in tools
of your trade ; " or the like, which does not admit
of an extended sense. The counting-room maxims
WEALTH. , 109
liberally expounded are laws of the Universe. The
merchant's economy is a coarse symbol of the soul's
economy. It is, to spend for power, and not for
pleasure. It is to invest income ; that is to say, to
take up particulars into generals ; days into inte-
gral eras, — literary, emotive, practical, of its life,
and still to ascend in its investment. The mer-
chant has but one rule, absorb and invest : he is
to be capitalist : the scraps and filings must be
gathered back into the crucible ; the gas and smoke
must be burned, and earnings must not go to in-
crease expense, but to capital again. Well, the
man must be capitalist. Will he spend his income,
or will he invest ? His body and every organ is
under the same law. His body is a jar, in which
the liquor of life is stored. Will he spend for pleas-
ure ? The way to ruin is short and facile. Will
he not spend, but hoard for power ? It passes
through the sacred fermentations, by that law of
Nature whereby everything climbs to higher plat-
forms, and bodily vigor becomes mental and moral
vigor. The bread he eats is first strength and
animal spirits : it becomes, in higher laboratories,
imagery and thought ; and in still higher results,
courage and endurance. This is the right coni-
pound interest ; this is capital doubled, quadrupled,
centupled; man raised to his highest power.
The true thrift is always to spend on the higher
plane ; to invest and invest, with keener avarice,
110 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
that he may spend in spiritual creation, and not in
auo-mentins animal existence. Nor is the man en-
riched, in repeating the old experiments of animal
sensation, nor unless through new powers and as-
cending pleasures, he knows himself by the actual
experience of higher good, to be already on the
way to the highest.
Can rules or tutore educate
The semigod whom we await?
He must be musical,
Alive to gentle influence
Of landscape and of sky,
And tender to the spirit-touch
Of man's or maiden's eye:
But, to his native centre fast,
Shall into Future fuse the Past, ■ ,
And the world's flowing fates in his own mould recast.
The word of ambition at the present day is Cul-
ture. Whilst all the world is in pursuit of power,
and of wealth as a means of power, culture corrects
the theory of success. A man is the prisoner of his
power. A topical memory makes him an almanac ;
a talent for debate, a disputant ; skill to get money
makes him a miser, that is, a beggar. Culture re-
duces these inflammations by invoking the aid of
other powers against the dominant talent, and by
appealing to the rank of powers. It watches suc-
cess. For performance. Nature has no mercy, and
sacrifices the performer to get it done ; makes a
dropsy or a tympany of him. If she wants a
thumb, she makes one at the cost of arms and legs,
and any excess of power in one part is usually paid
for at once by some defect in a contiguous part.
Our efficiency depends so much on our concen-
tration, that Nature usually in the instances where
a marked man is sent into the world, overloads him
with bias, sacrificing his symmetry to his working
power. It is said, no man can write but one book ;
and if a man have a defect, it is apt to leave its im-
114 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
pression on all his performances. If she creates a
policeman like Fouch^, he is made up of suspicions
and of plots to circumvent them. " The air," said
Fouch^, " is full of poniards." The physician
Sanctorius spent his life in a pair of scales, weigh-
ing his food. Lord Coke valued Chaucer highly,
because the Canon Yeman's Tale illustrates the
statute Hen, V, Chap. 4, against alchemy. I saw
a man who believed the principal mischiefs in the
English state were derived from the devotion to
musical concerts. A freemason, not long since, set
out to explain to this country, that the principal
cause of the success of General Washington, was,
the aid he derived from the freemasons.
But worse than the harping on one string. Nature
has secured individualism, by giving the private
person a high conceit of his weight in the system.
The pest of society is egotists. There are dull and
bright, sacred and profane, coarse and fine egotists.
'Tis a disease that, like influenza, falls on all consti-
tutions. In the distemper known to physicians as
chorea, the patient sometimes turns round, and con-
tinues to spin slowly on one spot. Is egotism a
metaphysical varioloid of this malady? The man
runs round a ring formed by his own talent, falls
into an admiration of it, and loses relation to the
world. It is a tendency in all minds. One of its
annoying forms, is a craving for sympathy. The
sufferers parade their miseries, tear the lint from
their bruises, reveal their indictable crimes, that you
may pity them. They like sickness, because phys-
ical pain will extort some show of interest from the
bystanders, as we have seen children, who, finding
themselves of no account when grown people come
in, will cough till they choke, to draw attention.
This distemper is the scourge of talent, — of
artists, inventors, and philosophers. Eminent spir-
itualists shall have an incapacity of putting their
act or word aloof from them, and seeing it bravely
for the nothing it is. Beware of the man who says,
" I am on the eve of a revelation." It is speedily
punished, inasmuch as this habit invites men to
humor it, and by treating the patient tenderly, to
shut him up in a narrower selfism, and exclude him
from the great world of God's cheerful fallible men
and women. Let us rather be insulted, whilst we
are insultable. Religious literature has eminent
examples, and if we run over our private list of
poets, critics, philanthropists, and philosophers, we
shall find them infected with this dropsy and ele-
phantiasis, which we ought to have tapped.
This goitre of egotism is so frequent among nota-
ble persons, that we must infer some strong neces-
sity in nature which it subserves ; such as we see in
the sexual attraction. The preservation of the spe-
cies was a point of such necessity, that Nature has
secured it at all hazards by immensely overloading
the passion, at the risk of perpetual crime and dis-
116 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
order. So egotism has its root in the cardinal
necessity by which each individual persists to be
what he is.
This individuality is not only not inconsistent
with culture, but is the basis of it. Every valuable
nature is there in its own right, and the student we
speak to must have a motherwit invincible by his
culture, which uses all books, arts, facilities, and ele-
gancies of intercourse, but is never subdued and lost
in them. He only is a well-made man who has a
good determination. And the end of culture is
not to destroy this, God forbid ! but to train away
all impediment and mixture, and leave nothing but
pure power. Our student must have a style and
determination, and be a master in his own specialty.
But, having this, he must put it behind him. He
must have a catholicity, a power to see with a free
and disengaged look every object. Yet is this pri-
vate interest and self so overcharged, that, if a man
seeks a companion who can look at objects for their
own sake, and without aflPection or self-reference,
he will find the fewest who will give him that
satisfaction ; whilst most men are afflicted with a
coldness, an incuriosity, as soon as any object does
not connect with their self-love. Though they
talk of the object before them, they are thinking
of themselves, and their vanity is laying little traps
for your admiration.
But after a man has discovered that there are
limits to the interest which his private history has
for mankind, he still converses with his family, or a
few companions, — perhaps with half a dozen per-
sonalities that are famous in his neighborhood. In
Boston, the question of life is the names of some
eight or ten men. Have you seen Mr. Allston,
Doctor Channing, Mr. Adams, Mr. Webster, Mr.
Greenough ? Have you heard Everett, Garrison,
Father Taylor, Theodore Parker ? Have you
talked with Messieurs Turbinewheel, Summitlevel,
and Lacofrupees ? Then you may as well die. In
New York, the question is of some other eight, or
ten, or twenty. Have you seen a few lawyers, mer-
chants, and brokers, — two or three scholars, two
or three capitalists, two or three editors of news-
papers ? New York is a sucked orange. All con-
versation is at an end, when we have discharged
ourselves of a dozen personalities, domestic or im-
ported, which make up our American existence.
Nor do we expect anybody to be other than a faint
copy of these heroes.
Life is very narrow. Bring any club or companj^
of intelligent men together again after ten years,
and if the presence of some penetrating and calm-
ing genius could dispose them to frankness, what
a confession of insanities would come up I The
"causes" to which we have sacrificed, Tariff or
Democracy, Whigism or Abolition, Temperance or
Socialism, would show like roots of bitterness and
118 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
dragons of wrath : and our talents are as mis-
chievous as if each had been seized upon by some
bird of prey, which had whisked him away from
fortune, from truth, from the dear society of the
poets, some zeal, some bias, and only when he was
now gray and nerveless, was it relaxing its claws,
and he awaking to sober perceptions.
Culture is the suggestion from certain best
thoughts, that a man has a range of affinities,
through which he can modulate the violence of any
master-tones that have a droning preponderance in
his scale, and succor him against himself. Culture
redresses his balance, puts him among his equals
and superiors, revives the delicious sense of sympa-
thy, and warns him of the dangers of solitude and
'Tis not a compliment but a disparagement to
consult a man only on horses, or on steam, or on
theatres, or on eating, or on books, and, whenever
he appears, considerately to turn the conversation
to the bantling he is known to fondle. In the
Norse heaven of our forefathers, Thor's house had
five hundred and forty floors ; and man's house has
five hundred and forty floors. His excellence is
facility of adaptation and of transition through
many related points, to wide contrasts and ex-
tremes. Culture kills his exaggeration, his conceit
of his village or his city. We must leave our pets
at home, when we go into the street, and meet men
on broad grounds of good meaning and good sense.
No performance is worth loss of geniality. 'Tis a
cruel price we pay for certain fancy goods called
line arts and philosophy. In the Norse legend, All-
fadir did not get a drink of Mimir's spring, (the
fountain of wisdom,) until he left his eye in
pledge. And here is a pedant that cannot unfold
his wrinkles, nor conceal his wrath at interruption
by the best, if their conversation do not fit his im-
pertinency, — here is he to afflict us with his per-
sonalities. 'Tis incident to scholars, that each of
them fancies he is pointedly odious in his commu-
nity. Draw him out of this limbo of irritability.
Cleanse with healthy blood his parchment skin.
You restore to him his eyes which he left in pledge
at Mimir's spring. If you are the victim of your
doing, who cares what you do ? We can spare
your opera, your gazetteer, your chemic analysis,
your history, your syllogisms. Your man of genius
pays dear for his distinction. His head runs up into
a spire, and instead of a healthy man, merry and
wise, he is some mad dominie. Nature is reckless
of the individual. When she has points to carry,
she carries them. To wade in marshes and sea-
margins is the destiny of certain birds, and they are
so accurately made for this, that they are imprisoned
in those places. Each animal out of its habitat
would starve. To the physician, each man, each
woman, is an amphfication of one organ. A sol-
120 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
dier, a locksmith, a bank-clerk, and a dancer could
not exchange functions. And thus we are victims
The antidotes against this organic egotism, are,
the range and variety of attractions, as gained by
acquaintance with the world, with men of merit,
with classes of society, with travel, with eminent
persons, and with the high resources of philosophy,
art, and religion : books, travel, society, solitude.
The hardiest skeptic who has seen a horse broken,
a pointer trained, or, who has visited a menagerie,
or the exhibition of the Industrious Fleas, will not
deny the validity of education. " A boy," says
Plato, " is the most vicious of all wild beasts ; "
and, in the same spirit, the old English poet Gas-
coign e says, " a boy is better unborn than un-
taught." The city breeds one kind of speech and
manners ; the back-coimtry a different style ; the
sea, another ; the army, a fourth. We know that
an army which can be confided in, may be formed
by discipline ; that, by systematic discipline all men
may be made heroes : Marshal Lannes said to a
French officer, " Know, Colonel, that none but a
poltroon will boast that he never was afraid." A
great part of courage is the courage of having done
the thing before. And, in all human action, those
faculties will be strong which are used. Kobert
Owen said, " Give me a tiger, and I will educate
him." 'Tis inhuman to want faith in the power
of education, since to meliorate, is the law of na-
ture; and men are valued precisely as they exert
onward or meliorating force. On the other hand,
poltroonery is the acknowledging an inferiority to
Incapacity of melioration is the only mortal dis-
temper. There are people who can never under-
stand a trope, or any second or expanded sense
given to your words, or any humor ; but remain
literalists, after hearing the music, and poetry, and
rhetoric, and wit, of seventy or eighty years. They
are past the help of surgeon or clergy. But even
these can understand pitchforks and the cry of fire !
and I have noticed in some of this class a marked
dislike of earthquakes.
Let us make our education brave and preventive.
Politics is an after-work, a poor patching. We are
always a little late. The evil is done, the law is
passed, and we begin the up-hill agitation for repeal
of that of which we ought to have prevented the
enacting. We shall one day learn to supersede
politics by education. What we call our root-and-
branch reforms of slavery, war, gambling, intem-
perance, is only medicating the symptoms. We
must begin higher up, namely, in Education.
Our arts and tools give to him who can handle
them much the same advantage over the novice, as
if you extended his life, ten, fifty, or a hundred
years. And I think it the part of good sense to
122 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
provide every fine soul with such culture, that it
sliall not, at thirty or forty years, have to say,
' Tliis which I might do is made hopeless through
my want of weapons.'
But it is conceded that much of our training fails
of effect ; that all success is hazardous and rare ;
that a large part of our cost and pains is thrown
away. Nature takes the matter into her own
hands, and, though we must not omit any jot of
our system, we can seldom be sure that it has
availed much, or, that as much good would not
have accrued from a different system.
Books, as containing the finest records of human
wit, must always enter into our notion of culture.
The best heads that ever existed, Pericles, Plato,
Julius Csesar, Shakspeare, Goethe, Milton, were
well-read, universally educated men, and quite too
wise to undervalue letters. Their opinion has
weight, because they had means of knowing the
opposite opinion. We look that a great man should
be a good reader, or, in proportion to the spon-
taneous power should be the assimilating power.
Good criticism is very rare, and always precious.
I am always happy to meet persons who percieive
the transcendent superiority of Shakspeare over all
other writers. I like people who like Plato. Be-
cause this love does not consist with self-conceit.
But books are good only as far as a boy is ready
for them. He sometimes gets ready very slowly.
You send your child to the schoolmaster, but 'tis
the schoolboys who educate him. You send him to
the Latin class, but much of his tuition comes, on
his way to school, from the shop-windows. You
like the strict rules and the long terms ; and he
finds his best leading in a by-way of his own, and
refuses any companions but of his choosing. He
hates the grammar and Gradus, and loves guns,
fishing-rods, horses, and boats. Well, the boy is
right ; and you are not fit to direct his bringing up,
if your theory leaves out his gymnastic training.
Archery, cricket, gun and fishing-rod, horse and
boat, are all educators, liberalizers ; and so are
dancing, dress, and the street-talk ; and, — pro-
vided only the boy has resources, and is of a noble
and ingenuous strain, — these will not serve him less
than the books. He learns chess, whist, dancing,
and theatricals. The father observes that another
boy has learned algebra and geometry in the same
time. But the first boy has acquired much more
than these poor games along with them. He is in-
fatuated for weeks with whist and chess ; but pres-
ently will find out, as you did, that when he rises
from the game too long played, he is vacant and
forlorn, and despises himself. Thenceforward it
takes place with other things, and has its due
weight in his experience. These minor skills and
accomplishments, for example, dancing, are tickets
of admission to the dress-circle of mankind, and the
124 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
being master of them enables tlie youth to judge in-
telligently of much, on which, otherwise, he would
give a pedantic squint. Landor said, " I have
suffered more from my bad dancing, than from all
the misfortunes and miseries of my life put to-
gether." Provided always the boy is teachable,
(for we are not proposing to make a statue out
of punk,) football, cricket, archery, swimming,
skating, climbing, fencing, riding, are lessons in
the art of power, which it is his main business to
learn ; — riding, specially, of which Lord Herbert
of Cherbury said, " a good rider on a good horse is
as much above himself and others as the world can
make him." Besides, the gun, fishing-rod, boat,
and horse, constitute, among all who use them, se-
cret freemasonries. They are as if they belonged
to one club.
There is also a negative value in these arts.
Their chief use to the youth, is, not amusement,
but to be known for what thev are, and not to re-
main to him occasions of heart-burn. We are full
of superstitions. Each class fixes its eyes on the ad-
vantages it has not ; the refined, on rude strength ;
the democrat, on birth and breeding. One of the
benefits of a college education is, to show the boy
its little avail. I knew a leading man in a leading
city, who, having set his heart on an education at
the university, and missed it, could never quite feel
himself the equal of his own brothers who had gone
thither. His easy superiority to multitudes of pro-
fessional men could never quite countervail to him
this imaginary defect. Balls, riding, wine-parties, -
and billiards, pass to a poor boy for something fine
and romantic, which they are not ; and a free ad-
mission to them on an equal footing, if it were pos-
sible, only once or twice, would be worth ten times
its cost, by undeceiving him.
I am not much an advocate for travelling, and.
I observe that men run away to other countries, be-
cause they are not good in their own, and run back
to their own, because they pass for nothing in the
new places. For the most part, only the light char-
acters travel. • Who are you that have no task to
keep you at home ? I have been quoted as saying
captious things about travel ; but I mean to do jus-
tice. I think, there is a restlessness in our people,
which argues want of character. All educated
Americans, first or last, go to Europe ; — perhaps,
because it is their mental home, as the invalid habits
of this country might suggest. An eminent teacher
of girls said, " the idea of a girl's education, is,
whatever qualifies them for going to Europe." Can
we never extract this tape-worm of Europe from the
brain of our countrymen ? One sees very well what
their fate must be. He that does not fill a place at
home, cannot abroad. He only goes there to hide
his insignificance .in a larger crowd. You do not
think you will find anything there which you have
126 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
not seen at home ? The stuff of all countries is jiist
the same. Do you suppose, there is any country
where they do not scald milkpans, and swaddle the
infants, and bum the brushwood, and broil the fish ?
What is true anywhere is true everywhere. And
let him go where he will, he can only find so much
beauty or worth as he carries.
Of course, for some men, travel may be useful.
Naturalists, discoverers, and sailors are born. Some
men are made for couriers, exchangers, envoys, mis-
sionaries, bearers of despatches, as others are for
farmers and working-men. And if the man is of a
light and social turn, and Nature has aimed to make
a legged and winged creature, framed for locomo-
tion, we must follow her hint, and furnish him
with that breeding which gives currency, as sedu-
lously as with that which gives worth. But let us
not be pedantic, but allow to travel its full effect.
The boy grown up on the farm, which he has never
lef\;, is said in the country to have had no chance,
and boys and men of that condition look upon work
on a railroad, or drudgery in a city, as opportunity.
Poor coimtry boys of Vermont and Connecticut
formerly owed what knowledge they had, to their
peddling trips to the Southern States. California
and the Pacific Coast is now the university of this
class, as Virginia was in old times. ' To have some
chance ' is their word. And the phrase ' to know
the world,' or to travel, is synonymous with all
men's ideas of advantage and superiority. No
doubt, to a man of sense, travel offers advantages.
As many languages as he has, as many friends, as
many arts and trades, so many times is he a man*
A foreign country is a point of comparison, where-
from to judge his own. One use of travel, is, to
recommend the books and works of home ; [we go
to Europe to be Americanized;] and another, to
find men. For, as Nature has put fruits apart in
latitudes, a new fruit in every degree, so knowledge
and fine moral quality she lodges in distant men.
And thus, of the six or seven teachers whom each
man wants among his contemporaries, it often hap-
pens, that one or two of them live on the other side
of the world.
Moreover, there is in every constitution a certain
solstice, when the stars stand still in our inward
firmament, and when there is required some foreign
force, some diversion or alterative to prevent stag-
nation. And, as a medical remedy, travel seems
one of the best. Just as a man witnessing the ad-
mirable effect of ether to lull pain, and meditating
on the contingencies of wounds, cancers, lockjaws,
rejoices in Dr. Jackson's benign discovery, so a
man who looks at Paris, at Naples, or at London,
says, ' If I should be driven from my own home,
here, at least, my thoughts can be consoled by the
most prodigal amusement and occupation which the
human race in ages could contrive and accumulate.'
128 CONDUCT OF LIFE. ^
Akin to the benefit of foreign travel, the aesthetic
value of railroads is to unite the advantages of town
and country life, neither of which we can spare.
A man should live in or near a large town, because,
let his own genius be what it may, it will repel
quite as much of agreeable and valuable talent as it
draws, and, in a city, the total attraction of all the
citizens is sure to conquer, first or last, every repul-
sion, and drag the most improbable hermit within
its walls some day in the year. In town, he can
find the swimming-school, the gymnasium, the dan-
cing-master, the shooting-galleiy, opera, theatre,
and panorama ; the chemist's shop, the museum of
natural history ; the gallery of fine arts ; the na-
tional orators, in their turn ; foreign travellers, the
libraries, and his club. In the country, he can find
solitude and reading, manly labor, cheap living, and
his old shoes ; moors for game, hills for geology,
and groves for devotion. Aubrey writes, " I have
heard Thomas Hobbes say, that, in the Earl of
Devon's house, in Derbyshire, there was a good
library and books enough for him, and his lordship
stored the library with what books he thought fit
to be bought. But the want of good conversa-
tion was a very great inconvenience, and, though
he conceived he could order his thinking as well
as another, yet he found a great defect. In the
coimtry, in long time, for want of good conver-
sation, one's understanding and invention con-
tract a moss on tliem, like an old paling in an
Cities give us collision. 'Tis said, London and
New York take the nonsense out of a man. A
great part of our education is sympathetic and so-
cial. Boys and girls who have been brought up
with well-informed and superior people, show in
their manners an inestimable grace. Fuller says,
that " William, Earl of Nassau, won a subject from
the King of Spain, every time he put off his hat."
You cannot have one well-bred man, without a
whole society of such. They keep each other up to
any high point. Especially women ; — it requires a
great many cultivated women, — saloons of bright,
elQgant, reading women, accustomed to ease and re-
finement, to spectacles, pictures, sculpture, poetry,
and to elegant society, in order that you should
have one Madame de Stael. The head of a com-
mercial house, or a leading lawyer or politician is
brought into daily contact with troops of men from
all parts of the country, and those too the driving-
wheels, the business men of each section, and one
can hardly suggest for an apprehensive man a more
searching culture. Besides, we must remember the
high social possibilities of a million of men. The
best bribe which London offers to-day to the im-
agination, is, that, in such a vast variety of people
and conditions, one can believe there is room for
persons of romantic character to exist, and that the
180 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront
I wish cities could teach their best lesson, — of
quiet manners. It is the foible especially of Amer-
ican youth, — pretension. The mark of the man
of the world is absence of pretension. He does
not make a speech ; he takes a low business- tone,
avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses plainly, promises
not at all, performs much, speaks in monosyllables,
hugs his fact. He calls his employment by its
lowest name, and so takes from evil tongues their
sharpest weapon. His conversation clings to the
weather and the news, yet he allows himself to be
surprised into thought, and the unlocking of his
learning and philosophy. How the imagination is
piqued by anecdotes of some great man passing in-
cognito, as a king in gray clothes, — of Napoleon
affecting a plain suit at his glittering levee; of
Burns, or Scott, or Beethoven, or Wellington, or
Goethe, or any container of transcendent power,
passing for nobody ; of Epaminondas, " who never
says anything, but will listen eternally;" of Goethe,
who preferred trifling subjects and common expres-
sions in intercourse with strangers, worse rather
than better clothes, and to appear a little more ca-
pricious than he was. There are advantages in the
old hat and box-coat. I have heard, that, through-
out this country, a certain respect is paid to good
broadcloth ; but dress makes a little restraint : men
will not commit themselves. But the box-coat is
like wine ; it unlocks the tongue, and men say what
they think. An old poet says,
" Go far and go sparing,
For you'll find it certain,
The poorer and the baser you appear,
The more you'll look through still." *
Not much otherwise Milnes writes, in the " Lay of
" To me men are for what they are,
They wear no masks with me."
'Tis odd that our people should have — not water
on the brain, — but a little gas there. A shrewd
foreigner said of the Americans, that, "whatever
they say has a little the air of a speech." Yet one
of the traits down in the books as distinguishing the
Anglo-Saxon, is, a trick of self-disparagement. To
be sure, in old, dense countries, among a million of
good coats, a fine coat comes to be no distinction,
and you find humorists. In an English party, a
man with no marked manners or features, with a
face like red dough, unexpectedly discloses wit,
learning, a wide range of topics, and personal fa-
miliarity with good men in all parts of the world,
tuitil you think you have fallen upon some illus-
trious personage. Can it be that the American
* Beaumont and Fletcher: The Tamer Tamed.
132 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
forest has refreshed some weeds of old Pictish bar-
barism just ready to die out, — the love of the scarlet
feather, of beads, and tinsel ? The Italians are fond
of red clothes, peacock plumes, and embroidery ;
and I remember one rainy morning in the city
of Palermo, the street was in a blaze with scarlet
umbrellas. The English have a plain taste. The
equipages of the grandees are plain. A gorgeous
livery indicates new and awkward city wealth.
Mr. Pitt, hke Mr. Pym, thought the title of Mister
good against any king in Europe. They have
piqued themselves on governing the whole world
in the poor, plain, dark Committee-room which the
House of Commons sat in, before the fire.
Whilst we want cities as the centres where the
best things are found, cities degrade us by magnify-
ing trifles. The countryman finds the town a chop-
house, a barber's shop. He has lost the lines of
grandeur of the horizon, hills and plains, and with
them, sobriety and elevation. He has come among
a supple, glib-tongued tribe, who live for show, ser-
vile to public opinion. Life is dragged down to a
fracas of pitiful cares and disasters. You say the
gods ought to respect a life whose objects are their
own ; but in cities they have betrayed you to a
cloud of insignificant annoyances :
" Mirmidons, race f^conde,
Enfin nous commandons :
Jupiter livre le monde
Aux mirmidons, aux mirmidons." *
'Tis heavy odds
Against the gods,
When tliey will match with myrmidons.
We spawning, spawning myrmidons.
Our turn to-day! we take command,
Jove gives the globe into the hand
Of myrmidons, of myrmidons.
"What is odious but noise, and people who scream
and bewail ? people whose vane points always east,
who live to dine, who send for the doctor, who cod-
dle themselves, who toast their feet on the register,
who intrigue to secure a padded chair, and a comer
out of the draught. Suffer them once to begin the
enumeration of their infirmities, and the sun will go
down on the unfinished tale. Let these triflers put
us out of conceit with petty comforts. To a man
at work, the frost is but a color : the rain, the
wind, he forgot them when he came in. Let us
learn to live coarsely, dress plainly, and lie hard.
The least habit of dominion over the palate has cer-
tain good effects not easily estimated. Neither will
we be driven into a quiddling abstemiousness. 'Tis
a superstition to insist on a special diet. All is
made at last of the same chemical atoms.
A man in pursuit of greatness feels no little
wants. How can you mind diet, bed, dress, or
salutes or compliments, or the figure you make in
134 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
company, or wealth, or even the bringing things to
pass, when you think how paltry are the machinery
and the workers ? Wordsworth was praised to me,
in Westmoreland, for having afforded to his comitry
neighbors an example of a modest household where
comfort and culture were secured, without display.
And a tender boy who wears his rusty cap and out-
grown coat, that he may secure the coveted place in
college, and the right in the library, is educated to
some purpose. There is a great deal of self-denial
and manliness in poor and middle-class houses, in
town and country, that has not got into literature,
and never will, but that keeps the earth sweet ; that
saves on superfluities, and spends on essentials ; that
goes rusty, and educates the boy ; that sells the
horse, but builds the school ; works early and late,
takes two looms in the factory, three looms, six
looms, but pays oif the mortgage on the pater-
nal farm, and then goes back cheerfully to work
We can ill spare the commanding social benefits
of cities ; they must be used ; yet cautiously, and
haughtily, — and will yield their best values to him
who best can do without them. Keep the town for
occasions, but the habits should be formed to retire-
ment. Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to
genius the stern friend, the cold, obscure shelter
where moult the wings which will bear it farther
than suns and stars. He who should inspire and
lead his race must be defended from travelling with
the souls of other men, from living, breathing, read-
ing, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of
their opinions. " In the morning, — solitude ; "
said Pythagoras ; that Nature may speak to the
imagination, as she does never in company, and
that her favorite may make acquaintance with those
divine strengths which disclose themselves to se-
rious and abstracted thought. 'Tis very certain
that Plato, Plotinus, Archimedes, Hermes, Newton,
Milton, Wordsworth, did not live in a crowd, but
descended into it from time to time as benefactors :
and the wise instructor will press this point of se-
curing to the young soul in the disposition of time
and the arrangements of living, periods and habits
of solitude. The high advantage of university-life
is often the mere mechanical one, I may call it,
of a separate chamber and fire, — which parents
will allow the boy without hesitation at Cam-
bridge, but do not think needful at home. We
say solitude, to mark the character of the tone of
thought ; but if it can be shared between two or
more than two, it is happier, and not less noble.
" We four," wrote Neander to his sacred friends,
" will enjoy at Halle the inward blessedness of a
dvitas Dei, whose foundations are forever friend-
ship. The more I know you, the more I dissat-
isfy and must dissatisfy all my wonted companions.
Their very presence stupefies me. The common
136 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
understanding withdraws itself from the one centre
of all existence."
SoHtude takes off the pressure of present impor-
tunities that more cathoHc and humane relations
may appear. The saint and poet seek privacy to
ends the most public and universal : and it is the
secret of culture, to interest the man more in his
public, than in his private quality. Here is a new
poem, which ehcits a good many comments in the
journals, and in conversation. From these it is
easy, at last, to eliminate the verdict which readers
passed upon it; and that is, in the main, unfavor-
able. The poet, as a craftsman, is only interested
in the praise accorded to him, and not in the cen-
sure, though it be just. And the poor little poet
hearkens only to that, and rejects the censure, as
proving incapacity in the critic. But the poet cul-
tivated becomes a stockholder in both companies, —
say Mr. Curfew, — in the Curfew stock, and in the
humanity stock ; and, in the last, exults as much in
the demonstration of the unsoundness of Curfew, as
his interest in the former gives him pleasure in the
cuuency of Curfew. For, the depreciation of his
Curfew stock only shows the immense values of the
humanity stock. As soon as he sides with his
critic against himself, with joy, he is a cultivated
We must have an intellectual quality in all prop-
erty and in all .action, or they are nought. I must
have children, I must have events, I must have a
social state and history, or my thinking and speak-
ing want body or basis. But to give these acces-
sories any value, I must know them as contingent
and rather showy possessions, which pass for more
to the people than to me. We see this abstraction
in scholars, as a matter of course : but what a charm
it adds when observed in practical men. Bonaparte,
like Caesar, was intellectual, and could look at every
object for itself, without affection. Though an ego-
tist d Voutranee^ he could criticize a play, a build-
ing, a character, on universal grounds, and give a
just opinion. A man known to us only as a ce-
lebrity in politics or in trade, gains largely in our
esteem if we discover that he has some intellectual
taste or skill ; as when we learn of Lord Fairfax,
the Long Parliament's general, his passion for anti-
quarian studies ; or of the French regicide Carnot,
his sublime genius in mathematics ; or of a living
banker, his success in poetry ; or of a partisan
journalist, his devotion to ornithology. So, if in
travelling in the dreary wildernesses of Arkansas
or Texas, we should observe on the next seat a
man reading Horace, or Martial, or Calderon, we
should wish to hug him. In callings that re-
quire roughest energy, soldiers, sea-captains, and
civil engineers sometimes betray a fine insight, if
only through a certain gentleness when off duty;
a good-natured admission that there are illusions,
138 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
and who shall say that he is not their sport ?
We only vary the phrase, not the doctrine, when
we say, that culture opens the sense of beauty.
A man is a beggar who only lives to the useful,
and, however he may serve as a pin or rivet in
the social machine, cannot be said to have arrived
at self-possession. I suffer, every day, from the
want of perception of beauty in people. They do
not know the charm with which all moments and
objects can be embellished, the charm of man-
ners, of self-command, of benevolence. Repose
and cheerfulness are the badge of the gentleman,
— repose in energy. The Greek battle-pieces are
calm ; the heroes, in whatever violent actions en-
gaged, retain a serene aspect ; as we say of Niag-
ara, that it falls without speed. A cheerful, intelli-
gent face is the end of culture, and success enough.
For it indicates the purpose of Nature and wisdom
When our higher faculties are in activity, we are
domesticated, and awkwardness and discomfort give
place to natural and agreeable movements. It is
noticed, that the consideration of the great periods
and spaces of astronomy induces a dignity of mind,
and an indifference to death. The influence of fine
scenery, the presence of mountains, appeases our
irritations and elevates our friendships. Even a
high dome, and the expansive interior of a cathe-
dral, have a sensible effect on manners. I have
heard that stiff people lose something of their awk-
wardness under high ceilings, and in spacious halls.
I think, sculpture and painting have an effect to
teach us manners, and abolish hurry.
But, over all, culture must reinforce from higher
influx the empirical skills of eloquence, or of poli-
tics, or of trade, and the useful arts. There is a
certain loftiness of thought and power to marshal
and adjust particulars, which can only come from
an insight of their whole connection. The orator
who has once seen things in their divine order, will
never quite lose sight of this, and will come to affairs
as from a higher ground, and, though he will say
nothing of philosophy, he will have ascertain mas-
tery in dealing with them, and an incapableness of
being dazzled or frighted, which will distinguish his
handling from that of attorneys and factors. A
man who stands on a good footing with the heads
of parties at Washington, reads the rumors of the
newspapers, and the guesses of provincial poli-
ticians, with a key to the right and wrong in each
statement, and sees well enough where all this will
end. Archimedes will look through your Connect-
icut machine, at a glance, and judge of its fitness.
And much more, a wise man who knows not only
what Plato, but what Saint John can show him,
can easily raise the affair he deals with, to a certain
majesty. Plato says, Pericles owed this elevation to
the lessons of Anaxagoras. Burke descended from
140 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
a higher sphere when he would influence human
affairs. Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Washington,
stood on a fine humanity, before which the brawls
of modern senates are but pot-house politics.
But there are higher secrets of culture, which
are not for the apprentices, but for proficients.
These are lessons only for the brave. We must
know our friends under ugly masks. The calami-
ties are our friends. Ben Jonson specifies in his
address to the Muse : —
"Get him the time's long grudge, the court's ill-will,
And, reconciled, keep him suspected still,
Make him lose all his friends, and, what is worse,
Almost ail ways to any better course;
With me thou leav'st a better Muse than thee,
And which thou brought' st me, blessed Poverty."
We wish to learn philosophy by rote, and play at
heroism. But the wiser God says, Take the shame,
the poverty, and the penal solitude, that belong to
truth-speaking. Try the rough water as well as
the smooth. Rough water can teach lessons worth
knowing. When the state is unquiet, personal qual-
ities are more than ever decisive. Fear not a revo-
lution which will constrain you to live five years in
one. Don't be so tender at making an enemy now
and then. Be willing to go to Coventry sometimes,
and let the populace ^bestow on you their coldest
contempts. The finished man of the world must
eat of every apple once. He must hold his hatreds
also at arm's length, and not remember spite. He
has neither friends nor enemies, but values men
only as channels of power.
He who aims high, must dread an easy home and
popular manners. Heaven sometimes hedges a rare
character about with ungainliness and odium, as the
burr that protects the fruit. If there is any great
and good thing in store for you, it will not come at
the first or the second call, nor in the shape of fash-
ion, ease, and city drawing-rooms. Popularity is
for dolls. " Steep and craggy," said Porphyry, " is
the path of the gods." Open your Marcus Anto-
ninus. In the opinion of the ancients, he was the
great man who scorned to shine, and who contested
the frowns of fortune. They preferred the noble
vessel too late for the tide, contending with winds
and waves, dismantled and unrigged, to her com-
panion borne into harbor with colors flying and
guns firing. There is none of the social goods that
may not be purchased too dear, and mere amiable-
ness must not take rank with high aims and self-
Bettine replies to Goethe's mother, who chides
her disregard of dress, — " If I cannot do as I have
a mind, in our poor Frankfort, I shall not carry
things far." And the youth must rate at its true
mark the inconceivable levity of local opinion.
The longer we live, the more we must endure the
elementary existence of men and women ; and
142 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
every brave heart must treat society as a cliild, and
never allow it to dictate.
" All that class of the severe and restrictive
virtues," said Burke, "are almost too costly for,
humanity." Who wishes to be severe ? Who
wishes to resist the eminent and polite, in behalf
of the poor, and low, and impolite ? and who that
dares do it, can keep his temper sweet, his frolic
spirits ? The high virtues are not debonair, but
have their redress in being illustrious at last.
What forests of laurel we bring, and the tears of
mankind, to those who stood firm against the opin-
ion of their contemporaries I The measure of a
master is his success in bringing all men round to
his opinion twenty years later.
Let me say here, that culture cannot begin too
early. In talking with scholars, I observe that they
lost on ruder companions those years of boyhood
which alone could give imaginative literature a re-
ligious and infinite quality in their esteem. I find,
too, that the chance for appreciation is much in-
creased by being the son of an appreciator, and that
these boys wtio now grow up are caught not only
years too late, but two or three births too late, to
make the best scholars of. And I think it a pre-
sentable motive to a scholar, that, as, in an old com-
munity, a well-born proprietor is usually found, after
the first heats of youth, to be a careful husband, and
to feel a habitual desire that the estate shall suffer
no harm by his administration, but shall be deliv-
ered down to the next heir in as good condition as
he received it ; — so, a considerate man will reckon
himself a subject of that secular melioration by
which mankind is mollified, cured, and refined, and
will shun every expenditure of his forces on pleas-
ure or gain, which will jeopardize this social and
The fossil strata show us that Nature began with
rudimental forms, and rose to the more complex, as
fast as the earth was fit for their dwelling-place ; and
that the lower perish, as the higher appear. Very
few of our race can be said to be yet finished men.
We still carry sticking to us some remains of the
preceding inferior quadruped organization. We
call these millions men ; but they are not yet men.
Half-engaged in the soil, pawing to get free, man
needs all the music that can be brought to disen-
gage him. If Love, red Love, with tears and joy ;
if Want with his scourge ; if War with his cannon-
ade ; if Christianity with its charity ; if Trade with
its money ; if Art with its portfolios ; if Science
with her telegraphs through the deeps of space and
time ; can set his dull nerves throbbing, and by loud
taps on the tough chrysalis, can break its walls, and
let the new creature emerge erect and free, — make
way, and sing paean ! The age of the quadruped
is to go out, — the age of the brain and of the heart
is to come in. The time will come when the evil
144 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
forms we have known can no more be organized.
Man's culture can spare nothing, wants all the
material. He is to convert all impediments into
instruments, all enemies into power. The formi-
dable mischief will only make the more useful slave.
And if one shall read the future of the race hinted
in the organic effort of Nature to mount and melio-
rate, and the corresponding impulse to the Better
in the human being, we shall dare affirm that there
is nothing he will not overcome and convert, until
at last culture shall absorb the chaos and gehenna.
He will convert the Furies into Muses, and the
hells into benefit.
Grace, Beauty, and Caprice
Build this golden portal;
Graceful women, chosen men
Dazzle every mortal :
Their sweet and lofty countenance
His enchanting food ;
He need not go to them, their forms
Beset his solitude.
He looketh seldom in their face,
His eyes explore the ground,
The green grass is a looking-glass
Whereon their traits are found.
Little he says to them,
So dances his heart in his breast,
Their tranquil mien bereave th him
Of wit, of words, of rest.
Too weak to win, too fond to shun
The tyrants of his doom,
The much deceived Endymion
Slips behind a tomb.
The soul which animates Nature is not less sig-
nificantly published in the figure, movement, and
gesture of animated bodies, than in its last vehicle
of articulate speech. This silent and subtile lan-
guage is Manners ; not what^ but how. Life ex-
presses. A statue has no tongue, and needs
none. Good tableaux do not need declamation.
Nature tells every secret once. Yes, but in man
she tells it all the time, by form, attitude, gesture,
mien, face, and parts of the face, and by the whole
action of the machine. The visible carriage or ac-
tion of the individual, as resulting from his organ-
ization and his will combined, we call manners.
What are they but thought entering the hands and
feet, controlling the movements of the body, the
speech and behavior ?
There is always a best way of doing everything,
if it be to boil an egg. Manners are the happy
ways of doing things ; each once a stroke of genius
or of love, — now repeated and iiardened into usage.
They form at last a rich varnish, with which the
routine of life is washed, and its details adorned.
148 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
If they are superficial, so are tlie dew-drops which
give such a depth to the morning meadows. Man-
ners are very communicable : men catch them
from each other. Consuelo, in the romance, boasts
of the lessons she had given the nobles in manners,
on the stage ; and, in real life. Talma taught
Napoleon the arts of behavior. Genius invents
fine* manners, which the baron and the baroness
copy very fast, and, by the advantage of a palace,
better the instruction. They stereotype the lesson
they have learned into a mode.
The power of manners is incessant, — an element
as unconcealable as fire. The nobility cannot in
any country be disguised, and no more in a republic
or a democracy, than in a kingdom. No man can
resist their influence. There are certain manners
which are learned in good society, of that force,
that, if a person have them, he or she must be con-
sidered, and is everywhere welcome, though with-
out beauty, or wealth, or genius. Give a boy
address and accomplishments, and you give him
the mastery of palaces and fortunes where he goes.
He has not the trouble of earning or owning them :
they solicit him to enter and possess. We send
girls of a timid, retreating disposition to the board-
ing-school, to the riding-school, to the ballroom, or
wheresoever they c§n come into acquaintance and
nearness of leading persons of their own sex ; where
they might learn address, and see it near at hand.
The power of a woman of fashion to lead, and also
to daunt and repel, derives from their belief that
she knows resources and behaviors not known to
them ; but when these have mastered her secret,
they learn to confront her, and recover their self-
Every day bears witness to their gentle rule.
People who would obtrude, now do not obtrude.
The mediocre circle learns to demand that which
belongs to a high state of nature or of culture.
Your manners are always under examination, and
by committees little suspected, — a police in citi-
zens' clothes, — but are awarding or denying you
very high prizes when you least think of it.
We talk much of utilities, — but 'tis our manners
that associate us. In hours of business, we go to
him who knows, or has, or does this or that which
we want, and we do not let our taste or feeling
stand in the way. But this activity over, we re-
turn to the indolent state, and wish for those we
can be at ease with ; those who will go where we
go, whose manners do not offend us, whose social
tone chimes with ours. When we reflect on their
persuasive and cheering force; how they recom-
mend, prepare, and draw people together ; how, in
all clubs, manners make the members ; how man-
ners make the fortune of the ambitious youth ; that,
for the most part, his manners marry him, and, for
the most part, he marries manners ; when we think
150 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
what keys they are, and to what secrets ; what high
lessons and inspiring tokens of character they con-
vey ; and what divination is required in us, for the
reading of this fine telegraph, we see what range
the subject has, and what relations to convenience,
power, and beauty.
Their first service is very low, — when they are
the minor morals ; but 'tis the beginning of civility,
— to make us, I mean, endurable to each other.
We prize them for their rough-plastic, abstergent
force ; to get people out of the quadruped state ; to
get them washed, clothed, and set up on end ; to
slough their animal husks and habits ; compel them
to be clean ; overawe their spite and meanness,
teach them to stifle the base, and choose the gen-
erous expression, and make them know how much
happier the generous behaviors are.
Bad behavior the laws cannot reach. Society is
infested with rude, cynical, restless, and frivolous
persons who prey upon the rest, and whom, a pub-
lic opinion concentrated into good manners, forms
accepted by the sense of all, can reach : — the con-
tradictors and railers at public and private tables,
who are like terriers, who conceive it the duty of a
dog of honor to growl at any passer-by, and do the
honors of the house by barking him out of sight : —
I have seen men who neigh like a horse when you
contradict them, or say something which they do
not understand : — then the overbold, who make
their own invitation to your hearth ; the persever-
ing talker, who gives you his society in large, satu-
rating closes ; the pitiers of themselves, — a perilous
class ; the frivolous Asmodeus, who relies on you to
find him in ropes of sand to twist ; the monotones ;
in short, every stripe of absurdity ; — these are
social inflictions which the magistrate cannot cure
or defend you from, and which must be intrusted
to the restraining force of custom, and proverbs,
and familiar rules of behavior impressed on young
people in their school-days.
In the hotels on the banks of the Mississippi,
they print, or used to print, among the rules of the
house, that " no gentleman can be permitted to
come to the public table without his coat ; " and
in the same country, in the pews of the churches,
little placards plead with the worshipper against the
fury of expectoration. Charles Dickens self-sacri-
ficingly undertook the reformation of our American
manners in unspeakable particulars. I think the
lesson was not quite lost ; that it held bad man-
ners up, so that the churls could see the deformity.
Unhappily, the book had its own deformities. It
ought not to need to print in a reading-room a cau-
tion to strangers not to speak loud ; nor to persons
who look over fine engravings, that they should be
handled like cobwebs and butterflies' wings ; nor
to persons who look at marble statues, that they
shall not smite them with canes. But, even in the
152 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
perfect civilization of this city, such cautions are
not quite needless in the Athenaeum and City
Manners are factitious, and grow out of circum-
stance as well as out of character. If you look at
the pictures of patricians and of peasants, of differ-
ent periods and countries, you will see how well
they match the same classes in our towns. The
modem aristocrat not only is well drawn in Titian's
Venetian doges, and in Roman coins and statues,
but also in the pictures which Commodore Perry
brought home of dignitaries in Japan. Broad lands
and great interests not only arrive to such heads as
can manage them, but form manners of power. A
keen eye, too, will see nice gradations of rank, or
see in the manners the degree of homage the party
is wont to receive. A prince who is accustomed
every day to be courted and deferred to by the
highest grandees, acquires a corresponding expec-
tation, and a becoming mode of receiving and
replying to this homage.
There are always exceptional people and modes.
English grandees affect to be farmers. Claverhouse
is a fop, and, under the finish of dress, and levity of,
behavior, hides the terror of his war. But Nature
and Destiny are honest, and never fail to leave their
mark, to hang out a sign for each and for every
quality. It is much to conquer one's face, and
perhaps the ambitious youth thinks he has got the
whole secret when he has learned, that disengaged
manners are commanding. Don't be deceived by
a facile exterior. Tender men sometimes have
strong wills. We had, in Massachusetts, an old
statesman, who had sat all his life in courts and
in chairs of state, without overcoming an extreme
irritability of face, voice, and bearing : when he
spoke, his voice would not serve him ; it cracked,
it broke, it wheezed, it piped ; — little cared he ; he
knew that it had got to pipe, or wheeze, or screech
his argument and his indignation. When he sat
down, after speaking, he seemed in a sort of fit, and
held on to his chair with both hands : but under-
neath all this irritability, was a puissant will, firm,
and advancing, and a memory in which lay in order
and method like geologic strata every fact of his
history, and under the control of his will.
Manners are partly factitious, but, mainly, there
must be capacity for culture in the blood. Else all
culture is vain. The obstinate prejudice in favor
of blood, which lies at the base of the feudal and
monarchical fabrics of the old world, has some rea-
son in common experience. Every man, — mathe-
matician, artist, soldier, or merchant, — looks with
confidence for some traits and talents in his own
child, which he would not dare to presume in the
child of a stranger. The Orientalists are very or-
thodox on this point. " Take a thorn-bush," said
the emir Abdel-Kader, " and sprinkle it for a whole
154 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
year with water ; — it will yield nothing but thorns.
Take a date-tree, leave it without culture, and it
will always produce dates. Nobility is the date-
tree, and the Arab populace is a bush of thorns."
A main fact in the history of manners is the
wonderful expressiveness of the human body. If it
were made of glass, or of air, and the thoughts
were written on steel tablets within, it could not
publish more truly its meaning than now. Wise
men read very sharply all your private history
in your look and gait and behavior. The whole
economy of nature is bent on expression. The
tell-tale body is all tongues. Men are like Ge-
neva watches with crystal faces which expose the
whole movement. They carry the liquor of life
flowing up and down in these beautiful bottles, and
announcing to the curious how it is with them.
The face and eyes reveal what the spirit is doing,
how old it is, what aims it has. The eyes indicate
the antiquity of the soul, or, through how many
forms it has already ascended. It almost violates
the proprieties, if we say above the breath here,
what the confessing eyes do not hesitate to utter
to every street passenger.
Man cannot fix his eye on the sun, and so far
seems imperfect. In Siberia, a late traveller found
men who could see the satellites of Jupiter with
their unarmed eye. In some respects the animals
excel us. The birds have a longer sight, beside the
advantage by their wings of a higher observatory.
A cow can bid her calf, by secret signal, prob-
ably of the eye, to run away, or to lie down and
hide itself. The jockeys say of certain horses, that
" they look over the whole ground." The out-
door life, and hunting, and labor, give equal vigor
to the human eye. A farmer looks out at you as
strong as the horse ; his eye-beam is like the stroke
of a staff. An eye can threaten like a loaded and
levelled gun, or can insult like hissing or kicking ;
or, in its altered mood, by beams of kindness, it can
make the heart dance with joy.
The eye obeys exactly the action of the mind.
When a thought strikes us, the eyes fix, and re-
main gazing at a distance ; in enumerating the
names of persons or of countries, as France, Ger-
many, Spain, Turkey, the eyes wink at each new
name. There is no nicety of learning sought by
the mind, which the eyes do not vie in acquiring.
" An artist," said Michel Angelo, " must have his
measuring tools not in the hand, but in the eye ; "
and there is no end to the catalogue of its perform-
ances, whether in indolent vision, (that of health
and beauty,) or in strained vision, (that of art and
Eye^ are bold as lions, — roving, running, leap-
ing, here and there, far and near. They speak all
languages. They wait for no introduction ; they
are no Englishmen ; ask no leave of age, or rank ;
156 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
they respect neither poverty nor riches, neither
learning nor power, nor virtue, nor sex, but in-
trude, and come again, and go through and through
you, in a moment of time. What inundation of
life and thought is discharged from one soul into
another, through them ! The glance is natural
magic. The mysterious communication established
across a house between two entire strangers, moves
all the springs of wonder. The communication by
the glance is in the greatest part not subject to the
control of the will. It is the bodily sjonbol of iden-
tity of nature. We look into the eyes to know if
this other form is another self, and the eyes will
not lie, but make a faithful confession what inhab-
itant is there. The revelations are sometimes ter-
rific. The confession of a low, usurping devil is
there made, and the observer shall seem to feel the
stirring of owls, and bats, and homed hoofs, where
he looked for innocence and simplicity. 'Tis re-
markable, too, that the spirit that appears at the
windows of the house does at once invest himself in
a new form of his own, to the mind of the beholder.
The eyes of men converse as much as their
tongues, with the advantage, that the ocular dia-
lect needs no dictionary, but is understood all the
world over. When the eyes say one thing, and the
tongue another, a practised man relies on the lan-
guage of the first. If the man is off his centre,
the eyes show it. You can read in the eyes of
your companion, whether your argument hits him,
though his tongue will not confess it. There is a
look by which a man shows he is going to say a
good thing, and a look when he has said it. Vain
and forgotten are all the fine offers and offices
of hospitality, if there is no holiday in the eye.
How many furtive inclinations avowed by the eye,
though dissembled by the lips ! One comes away
from a company, in which, it may easily happen,
he has said nothing, and no important remark has
been addressed to him, and yet, if in sympathy
with the society, he shall not have a sense of this
fact, such a stream of life has been flowing into
him, and out from him, through the eyes. There
are eyes, to be sure, that give no more admission
into the man than blueberries. Others are liquid
and deep, — wells that a man might fall into ; —
others are aggressive and devouring, seem to call
out the police, take all too much notice, and require
crowded Broadways, and the security of milHons,
to protect individuals against them. The military
eye I meet, now darkly sparkling under clerical,
now under rustic brows. 'Tis the city of Lace-
dasmon ; 'tis a stack of bayonets. There are asking
eyes, asserting eyes, prowling eyes ; and eyes full
of fate, — some of good, and some of sinister omen.
The alleged power to charm down insanity, or
ferocity in beasts, is a power behind the eye. It
must be a victory achieved in the will, before it
158 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
can be signified in the eye. 'Tis very certain that
each man carries in his eye the exact indication of
his rank in the immense scale of men, and we are
always learning to read it. A complete man should
need no auxiliaries to his personal presence. Who-
ever looked on him would consent to his will, being
certified that his aims were generous and universal.
The reason why men do not obey us, is because
they see the mud at the bottom of our eye.
If the organ of sight is such a vehicle of power,
the other features have their own. A man finds
room in the few square inches of the face for the
traits of all his ancestors ; for. the expression of
all his history, and his wants. The sculptor, and
Winckelmann, and Lavater, will tell you how sig-
nificant a feature is the nose ; how its forms express
strength or weakness of will, and good or bad tem-
per. The nose of Julius Caesar, of Dante, and of
Pitt, suggest " the terrors of the beak." What
refinement, and what limitations, the teeth betray !
" Beware you don't laugh," said the wise mother,
" for then you show all your faults."
Balzac left in manuscript a chapter, which he
called " TMorie de la demarche^'' in which he
says : " The look, the voice, the respiration, and the
attitude or walk, are identical. But, as it has not
been given to man, the power to stand guard, at
once, over these four different simultaneous expres-
sions of his thought, watch that one which speaks
out the truth, and you will know the whole
Palaces mterest us mainly in the exhibition of
manners, which, in the icQe and expensive society
dwelling in them, are raised to a high art. The
maxim of courts is, that manner is power. A calm
and resolute bearing, a polished speech, an embel-
lishment of trifles, and the art of hiding all uncom-
fortable feeling, are essential to the courtier : and
Saint Simon, and Cardinal de Retz, and Roederer,
and an encyclopaedia of Memoir es^ will instruct you,
if you wish, in those potent secrets. Thus, it is a
point of pride with kings, to remember faces and
names. It is reported of one prince, that his head
had the air of leaning downwards, in order not to
humble the crowd. There are people who come in
ever like a child w^ith a piece of good news. It
was said of the late Lord Holland, that he always
came down to breakfast with the air of a man who
had just met with some signal good-fortune. In
" Notre Dame^^ the grandee took his place on the
dais, with the look of one who is thinking of some-
thing else. But we must not peep and eavesdrop
Fine manners need the support of fine manners
in others. A scholar may be a well-bred man, or
he may not. The enthusiast is introduced to pol-
ished scholars in society, and is chilled and silenced
by finding himself not in their element. They all
160 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
have somewhat which he has not, and, it seems,
ought to have. But if he finds the scholar apart
from his companions, it is then the enthusiast's
turn, and the scholar has no defence, but must deal
on his terms. Now they must fight the battle out
on their private strengths. What is the talent
of that character so common, — the successful man
of the world, — in all marts, senates, and drawing-
roonjs ? Manners : manners of power ; sense to
see his advantage, and manners up to it. See him
approach his man. He knows that troops behave
as they are handled at first; — that is his cheap
secret ; just what happens to every two persons who
meet on any affair, — one instantly perceives that
he has the key of the situation, that his will com-
prehends the other's will, as the cat does the mouse ;
and he has only to use courtesy, and furnish good-
natured reasons to his victim to cover up the chain,
lest he be shamed into resistance.
The theatre in which this science of manners
has a formal importance is not with us a court, but
dress-circles, wherein, after the close of the day's
business, men and women meet at leisure, for mu-
tual entertainment, in ornamented drawing-rooms.
Of course, it has every variety of attraction and
merit ; but, to earnest persons, to youths or maidens
who have great objects at heart, we cannot extol it
highly. A well-dressed, talkative company, where
each is bent to amuse the other, — yet the high-born
Turk who came hither fancied that every woman
seemed to be suffering for a chair ; that all the
talkers were brained and exhausted by the deoxy-
genated air : it spoiled the best persons : it put
all on stilts. Yet here are the secret biographies
written and read. The aspect of that man is repul-
sive ; I do not wish to deal with him. The other
is irritable, shy, and on his guard. The youth
looks humble and manly : I choose him. Look on
this woman. There is not beauty, nor brilliant
sayings, nor distinguished power to serve you ; but
all see her gladly ; her whole air and impression
are healthful. Here come the sentimentalists, and
the invalids. Here is Elise, who -caught cold in
coming into the world, and has always increased it
since. Here are creep-mouse manners ; and thiev-
ish manners. " Look at Northcote," said Fuseli ;
" he looks like a rat that has seen a cat." In the
shallow company, easily excited, easily tired, here
is the columnar Bernard : the Alleghanies do not
express more repose than his behavior. Here are
the sweet following eyes of Cecile : it seemed al-
ways that she demanded the heart. Nothing can
be more excellent in kind than the Corinthian grace
of Gertrude's manners, and yet Blanche, who has
no manners, has better manners than she ; for the
movements of Blanche are the sallies of a spirit
which is sufficient for the moment, and she can
affi)rd to express every thought by instant action.
162 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
Manners have been somewhat cynically defined
to be a contrivance of wise men to keep fools at a
distance. Fashion is shrewd to detect those who
do not belong to her train, and seldom wastes her
attentions. Society is very swift in its instincts,
and, if you do not belong to it, resists and sneers at
you; or quietly drops you. The first weapon en-
rages the party attacked ; the second is still more
effective, but is not to be resisted, as the date of the
transaction is not easily found. People grow up
and grow old under this infliction, and never sus-
pect the truth, ascribing the solitude which acts on
them very injuriously, to any cause but the right
The basis of good manners is self-reliance. Ne-
cessity is the law of all who are not self-possessed.
Those who are not self-possessed, obtrude, and pain
us. Some men appear to feel that they belong to a
Pariah caste. They fear to offend, they bend and
apologize, and walk through life with a timid step.
As we sometimes dream that we are in a well-
dressed company without any coat, so Godfrey acts
ever as if he suffered from some mortifying circum-
stance. The hero should find himself at home,
wherever he is ; should impart comfort by his own
security and good-nature to all beholders. The
hero is suffered to be himself. A person of strong
mind comes to perceive that for him an immunity is
secured so long as he renders to society that service
which is native and proper to him, — an immunity
from all the observances, yea, and duties, which
society so tyrannically imposes on the rank and file
of its members. " Euripides," says Aspasia, " has
not the fine manners of Sophocles ; but," — she
adds good-humoredly, " the movers and masters of
our souls have surely a right to throw out their
limbs as carelessly as they please, on the world that
belongs to them, and before the creatures they have
Manners require time, as nothing is more vul-
gar than haste. Friendship should be surrounded
with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into
comers. Friendship requires more time than poor
busy men can usually command. Here comes to
me Roland, with a delicacy of sentiment leading
and inwrapping him like a divine cloud or holy
ghost. 'Tis a great destitution to both that this
should not be entertained with large leisures,
but contrariwise should be balked by importunate
But through this lustrous varnish, the reality is
ever shining. 'Tis hard to keep the what from
breaking through this pretty painting of the how.
The core will come to the surface. Strong will
and keen perception overpower old manners, and
create new ; and the thought of the present mo-
ment has a greater value than all the past. In
* Landor: PeHcles and Aspasia.
164 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
persons of character, we do not remark manners,
because of their instantaneousness. We are sur-
prised by the thing done, out of all power to watch
the way of it. Yet nothing is more charming than
to recognize the great style which runs through
the actions of such. People masquerade before us
in their fortunes, titles, offices, and connections, as
academic or civil presidents, or senators, or profes-
sors, or great lawyers, and impose on the frivolous,
and a good deal on each other, by these fames. At
least, it is a point of prudent good manners to treat
these reputations tenderly, as if they were merited.
But the sad realist knows these fellows at a glance,
and they know him ; as when in Paris the chief
of the police enters a ballroom, so many diamonded
pretenders shrink and make themselves as incon-
spicuous as they can, or give him a supplicating
look as they pass. " I had received," said a sibyl,
"I had received at birth the fatal gift of penetra-
tion : " — and these Cassandras are always bom.
Manners impress as they indicate real power. A
man who is sure of his point, carries a broad and
contented expression, which everybody reads. And
you cannot rightly train one to an air and manner,
except by making him the kind of man of whom
that manner is the natural expression. Nature for-
ever puts a premium on reality. What is done for
effect, is seen to be done for effect ; what is done
for love, is felt to be done for love. A man inspires
aflPection and honor, because he was not lying in
wait for these. The things of a man for which we
visit him, were done in the dark and the cold. A
little integrity is better than any career. So deep
are the sources of this surface-action, that even the
size of your companion seems to vary with his free-
dom of thought. Not only is he larger, when at
ease, and his thoughts generous, but everything
around him becomes variable with expression. No
carpenter's rule, no rod and chain, will measure the
dimensions of any house or house-lot : go into the
house : if the proprietor is constrained and defer-
ring, 'tis of no importance how large his house, how
beautiful his grounds, — you quickly come to the
end of all : but if the man is self-possessed, happy,
and at home, his house is deep-founded, indefinitely
large and interesting, the roof and dome buoyant
as the sky. Under the humblest roof, the common-
est person in plain clothes sits there massive, cheer-
ful, yet formidable like the Egyptian colossi.
Neither Aristotle, nor Leibnitz, nor Junius, nor
Champollion has set down the grammar-rules of
this dialect, older than Sanscrit ; but they who can-
not yet read English, can read this. Men take each
other's measure, when they meet for the first time,
— and every time they meet. How do they get
this rapid knowledge, even before they speak, of
each other's power and dispositions ? One would
say, that the persuasion of their speech is not in
166 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
what they say, — or, that men do not convince by
their argument, — but by their personahty, by who
they are, and what they said and did heretofore.
A man already strong is hstened to, and everything
he says is applauded. Another opposes him with
sound argument, but the argument is scouted, until
by and by it gets into the mind of some weighty
person ; then it begins to tell on the community.
Self-reliance is the basis of behavior, as it is the
guaranty that the powers are not squandered in
too much demonstration. In this country, where
school education is universal, we have a superficial
culture, and a profusion of reading and writing and
expression. We parade our nobilities in poems and
orations, instead of working them up into happiness.
There is a whisper out of the ages to him who can
understand it, — ' whatever is known to thyself
alone, has always very great value.' There is some
reason to believe, that, when a man does not write
his poetry, it escapes by other vents through him,
instead of the one vent of writing; clings to his
form and manners, whilst poets have often noth-
ing poetical about them except their verses. Jacobi
said, that " when a man has fully expressed his
thought, he has somewhat less possession of it."
One would say, the rule is, — What a man is irre-
sistibly urged to say, helps him and us. In explain-
ing his thought to others, he explains it to himself:
but when he opens it for show, it corrupts him.
Society is the stage on which manners are
shown ; novels are their hterature. Novels are
the journal or record of manners ; and the new im-
portance of these books derives from the fact, that
the novelist begins to penetrate the surface, and
treat this part of life more worthily. The novels
used to be all alike, and had a quite vulgar tone.
The novels used to lead us on to a foolish interest
in the fortunes of the boy and girl they described.
The boy was to be raised from a humble to a high
position. He was in want of a wife and a castle,
and the object of the story was to supply him with
one or both. We watched sympathetically, step by
step, his climbing, until, at last, the point is gained,
the wedding day is fixed, and we follow the gala
procession home to the castle, when the doors are
slammed in our face, and the poor reader is left
outside in the cold, not enriched by so much as an
idea, or a virtuous impulse.
But the victories of character are instant, and
victories for all. Its greatness enlarges all. We
are fortified by every heroic anecdote. The novels
are as useful as Bibles, if they teach you the secret,
that the best of life is conversation, and the great-
est success is confidence, or perfect understanding
between sincere people. 'Tis a French definition
of friendship, rien que s^ entendre^ good understand-
ing. The highest compact we can make with our
fellow, is, — ' Let there be truth between us two
168 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
forevermore.' That is the charm in all good nov-
els, as it is the charm in all good histories, that the
heroes mutually understand, from the first, and deal
loyally, and with a profound trust in each other.
It is sublime to feel and say of another, I need
never meet, or speak, or write to him : we need
not reinforce ourselves, or send tokens of remem-
brance : I rely on him as on myself : if he did
thus or thus, I know it was right.
In all the superior people I have met, I notice
directness, truth spoken more truly, as if everything
of obstruction, of malformation, had been trained
away. What have they to conceal ? What have
they to exhibit ? Between simple and noble per-
sons, there is always a quick intelligence : they
recognize at sight, and meet on a better ground
than the talents and skills they may chance to
possess, namely, on sincerity and uprightness. For,
it is not what talents or genius a man has, but
how he is to his talents, that constitutes friendship
and character. The man that stands by himself,
the universe stands by him also. It is related
of the monk Basle, that, being excommunicated by
the Pope, he was, at his death, sent in charge of an
angel to find a fit place of suffering in hell ; but,
such was the eloquence and good-humor of the
monk, that, wherever he went he was received
gladly, and civilly treated, even by the most un-
civil angels : and, when he came to discourse with
tliem, instead of contradicting or forcing him, they
took his part, and adopted his manners : and even
good angels came from far, to see him, and take up
their abode with him. The angel that was sent
to find a place of torment for him, attempted to
remove him to a worse pit, but with no better suc-
cess ; for such was the contented spirit of the monk,
that he found something to praise in every place
and company, though in hell, and made a kind of
heaven of it. At last the escorting angel returned
with his prisoner to them that sent him, saying,
that no phlegethon could be found that would burn
him ; for that, in whatever condition, Basle re-
mained incorrigibly Basle. The legend says, his
sentence was remitted, and he was allowed to go
into heaven, and was canonized as a saint.
There is a stroke of magnanimity in the corre-
spondence of Bonaparte with his brother Joseph,
when the latter was King of Spain, and complained
that he missed in Napoleon's letters the affectionate
tone which had marked their childish correspond-
ence. " I am sorry," replies Napoleon, " you
think you shall find your brother again only in the
Elysian Fields. It is natural, that at forty, he should
not feel towards you as he did at twelve. But his
feelings towards you have greater truth and strength.
His friendship has the features of his mind."
How much we forgive to those who yield us the
rare spectacle of heroic manners ! We will pardon
170 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
them the want of books, of arts, and even of the
gentler virtues. How tenaciously we remember
them ! Here is a lesson which I brouglit along
with me in boyhood from the Latin School, and
which ranks with the best of Roman anecdotes.
Marcus Scaurus was accused by Quintus Varius
Hispanus, that he had excited the allies to take
arms against the Republic. But he, full of firm-
ness and gravity, defended himself in this manner :
" Quintus Varius Hispanus alleges that Marcus
Scaurus, President of the Senate, excited the allies
to aims : Marcus Scaurus, President of the Senate,
denies it. There is no witness. Which do you
believe, Romans ? " " Utri ereditis^ Quirites ? '*
"When he had said these words, he was absolved
by the assembly of the people.
I have seen manners that make a similar impres-
sion with personal beauty ; that give the like exhil-
axation, and refine us like that ; and, in memorable
experiences, they are suddenly better than beauty,
and make that superfluous and ugly. But they
must be marked by fine perception, the acquaint-
ance with real beauty. They must always show
self-control : you shall not be facile, apologetic, or
leaky, but king over your word ; and every gesture
and action shall indicate power at rest. Then they
must be inspired by the good heart. There is no
beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, hke
the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.
'Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night's
lodging. 'Tis bette;* to be hospitable to his good
meaning and thought, and give courage to a com-
panion. We must be as courteous to a man as we
are to a picture, which we are willing to give the
advantage of a good light. Special precepts are ftot
to be thought of: the talent of well-doing contains
them all. Every hour will show a duty as para-
mount as that of my whim just now ; and yet I
will write it, — that there is one topic peremp-
torily forbidden to all well-bred, to all rational
mortals, namely, their distempers. If you have
not slept, or if you have slept, or if you have head-
ache, or sciatica, or leprosy, or thunder-stroke, I
beseech you, by all angels, to hold your peace,
and not pollute the morning, to which all the
housemates bring serene and pleasant thoughts, by
corruption and groans. Come out of the azure.
Love the day. Do not leave the sky out of your
landscape. The oldest and the most deserving
person should come very modestly into any newly
awaked company, respecting the divine communica-
tions, out of which all must be presumed to have
newly come. An old man who added an elevating
culture to a large experience of life, said to me,
" When you come into the room, I think I will
study how to make humanity beautifiil to you."
As respects the delicate question of culture, I do
not think that any other than negative rules can be
172 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
laid down. For positive rules, for suggestion, Na-
ture alone inspires it. Who dare assume to guide
a youth, a maid, to perfect manners ? — the golden
mean is so delicate, difficult, — say frankly, unat-
tainable. What finest hands would not be clumsy
to sketch the genial precepts of the young girl's
demeanor ? The chances seem infinite against
success ; and yet success is continually attained.
There must not be secondariness, and 'tis a thou-
sand to one that her air and manner will at once
betray that she is not primary, but that there is
some other one or many of her class, to whom she
habitually postpones herself. But Nature lifts her
easily, and without knowing it, over these impossi-
bilities, and we are continually surprised with graces
and felicities not only unteachable, but undescrib-
This is he, who, felled by foes,
Sprung harmless up, refreshed by blows :
He to captivity was sold,
But him no prison-bars would hold :
Though they sealed him in a rock,
Mountain chains he can unlock :
Thrown to lions for their meat,
The crouching lion kissed his feet :
Bound to the stake, no flames appalled,
But arched o'er him an honoring vault.
This is he men miscall Fate,
Threading dark ways, arriving late,
But ever coming in time to crown
The truth, and hurl wrongdoers down.
He is the oldest, and best known,
More near than aught thou call'st thy own,
Yet, greeted in another's eyes.
Disconcerts with glad surprise.
This is Jove, who, deaf to prayers.
Floods with blessings unawares.
Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line,
Severing rightly his from thine,
Which is human, which divine.
Some of my friends have complained, when the
preceding papers were read, that we discussed Fate,
Power, and Wealth, on too low a platform ; gave
too much line to the evil spirit of the times ; too
many cakes to Cerberus ; that we ran Cudworth's
risk of making, by excess of candor, the argument
of atheism so strong, that he could not answer it.
I have no fears of being forced in my own despite
to play, as we say, the devil's attorney. I have no
infirmity of faith ; no belief that it is of much im-
portance what I or any man may say : I am sure
that a certain truth will be said through me, though
I should be dumb, or though I should try to say
the reverse. Nor do I fear skepticism for any good
soul. A just thinker will allow full swing to his
skepticism. I dip my pen in the blackest ink, be-
cause I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.
I have no sympathy with a poor man I knew, who,
when suicides abounded, told me he dared not look
at his razor. We are of different opinions at differ-
ent hours, but we always may be said to be at heart
on the side of truth.
176 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
I see not why we should give ourselves such
sanctified airs. If the Divine Providence has hid
from men neither disease, nor deformity, nor cor-
rupt society, but has stated itself out in passions, in
war, in trade, in the love of power and pleasure,
in hunger and need, in tyrannies, literatures, and
arts, — let us not be so nice that we cannot write
these facts down coarsely as they stand, or doubt
but there is a counter-statement as ponderous,
which we can arrive at, and which, being put, will
make all square. The solar system has no anxiety
about its reputation, and the credit of truth and
honesty is as safe ; nor have I any fear that a
skeptical bias can be given by leaning hard on the
sides of fate, of practical power, or of trade, which
the doctrine of Faith cannot down-weigh. The
strength of that principle is not measured in ounces
and pounds : it tyrannizes at the centre of Nature.
We may well give skepticism as much line as we
can. The spirit will return, and fill us. It drives
the drivers. It counterbalances any accumulations
" Heaven kindly gave our blood a moral flow."
We are bom loyal. The whole creation is made
of hooks and eyes, of bitumen, of sticking-plaster,
and whether your community is made in Jerusalem
or in California, of saints or of wreckers, it coheres
in a perfect ball. Men as naturally make a state,
or a church, as caterpillars a web. If they were
more refined, it would be less formal, it would be
nervous, like that of the Shakers, who, from long
habit of thinking and feeling together, it is said, are
affected in the same way, at the same time, to work
and to play, and as they go with perfect sympathy
to their tasks in the field or shop, so are they in-
clined for a ride or a journey at the same instant,
and the horses come up with the family carriage
unbespoken to the door.
We are bom believing. A man bears beliefs, as
a tree bears apples. A self-poise belongs to every
particle ; and a rectitude to every mind, and is the
Nemesis and protector of every society. I and my
neighbors have been bred in the notion, that, unless
we came soon to some good church, — Calvinism,
or Behmenism, or Romanism, or Mormonism, —
there would be a universal thaw and dissolution.
No Isaiah or Jeremy has arrived. Nothing can
exceed the anarchy that has followed in our skies.
The stern old faiths have all pulverized. 'Tis a
whole population of gentlemen and ladies out in
search of religions. 'Tis as flat anarchy in our
ecclesiastic realms, as that which existed in Massa-
chusetts, in the Revolution, or which prevails now
on the slope of the Rocky Mountains or Pike's
Peak. Yet we make shift to hve. Men are loyal.
Nature has self-poise in all her works ; certain pro-
portions in which oxygen and azote combine, and,
178 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
not less a harmony in faculties, a fitness in the
spring and the regulator.
The decline of the influence of Calvin, or Fen-
elon, or Wesley, or Channing, need give us no
uneasiness. The builder of heaven has not so ill
constructed his creature as that the religion, that is,
the public nature, should fall out : the public and
the private element, like north and south, like in-
side and outside, like centrifugal and centripetal,
adhere to every soul, and cannot be subdued, except
the soul is dissipated. God builds his temple in the
heart on the ruins of churches and religions.
In the last chapters, we treated some particulars
of the question of culture. But the whole state
of man is a state of culture; and its flowering
and completion may be described as Religion, or
Worship. There is always some religion, some
hope and fear extended into the invisible, — from
the blind boding which nails a horseshoe to the
mast or the threshold, up to the song of the Elders
in the Apocalypse. But the religion cannot rise
above the state of the votary. Heaven always
bears some proportion to earth. The god of the
cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a cru-
sader, and of the merchants a merchant. In all
ages, souls out of time, extraordinary, prophetic,
are born, who are rather related to the system of
the world, than to their particular age and locality.
These announce absolute truths, which, with what-
ever reverence received, are speedily dragged down
into a savage interpretation. The interior tribes
of our Indians, and some of the Pacific islanders,
flog their gods, when things take an unfavorable
turn. The Greek poets did not hesitate to let loose
their petulant wit on their deities also. Laomedon,
in his anger at Neptune and Apollo, who had built
Troy for him, and demanded their price, does not
hesitate to menace them that he will cut their ears
off.* Among our Norse forefathers. King Olaf's
mode of converting Eyvind to Christianity was to
put a pan of glowing coals on his belly, which burst
asunder. " Wilt thou now, Eyvind, believe in
Christ ? " asks Olaf, in excellent faith. Another
argument was an adder put into the mouth of the
reluctant disciple Rand, who refused to believe.
Christianity, in the romantic ages, signified Euro-
pean culture, — the grafted or meliorated tree in a
crab forest. And to marry a pagan wife or hus-
band, was to marry Beast, and voluntarily to take
a step backwards towards the baboon.
"Hengist h*d verament
A daughter both fair and gent,
But she was heathen Sarazine,
And Vortigern for love fine
Her took to fere and to wife,
And was cursed in all his life;
For he let Christian wed heathen.
And mixed our blood as flesh and mathen." f
* Iliad, Book xxi. 1. 455. t Moths or worms.
180 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
What Gothic mixtures the Christian creed drew
from the pagan sources, Richard of Devizes's chron-
icle of Richard I.'s cnisade, in the twelfth century,
may show. King Richard taunts God with for-
saking him : " O fie ! O how unwilling should I
be to forsake thee, in so forlorn and dreadful a
position, were I thy lord and advocate, as thou art
mine. In sooth, my standards will in future be
despised, not through my fault, but through thine :
in sooth, not through any cowardice of my warfare,
art thou thyself, my king and my God conquered,
this day, and not Richard thy vassal." The relig-
ion of the early English poets is anomalous, so de-
vout and so blasphemous, in the same breath. Such
is Chaucer's extraordinary confusion of heaven and
earth in the picture of Dido.
" She was so fair,
So young, so lusty, with her eyen glad,
That if that God that lieaven and earthe made
Would have a love for beauty and goodness,
And womanhede, truth, and seeraliness,
Whom should he loven but this lady sweet?
There n' is no woman to him half so meet."
With these grossnesses, we complacently com-
pare our own taste and decorum. We think and
speak with more temperance and gradation, — but
is not indifferentism as bad as superstition ?
We live in a transition period, when the old
faiths which comforted nations, and not only so,
but made nations, seem to have spent their force.
I do not find the religions of men at this moment
veiy creditable to them, but either childish and
insignificant, or unmanly and effeminating. The
fatal trait is the divorce between religion and moral-
ity. Here are know-nothing religions, or churches
that proscribe intellect ; scortatory rehgions ; slave-
holding and slave-trading religions ; and, even in
the decent populations, idolatries wherein the white-
ness of the ritual covers scarlet indulgence. The
lover of the old religion complains that our contem-
poraries, scholars as well as merchants, succumb to
a great despair, — have corrupted into a timorous
conservatism, and believe in nothing. In our large
cities, the population is godless, materialized, — no
bond, no fellow-feeling, no enthusiasm. These are
not men, but hungers, thirsts, fevers, and appetites
walking. How is it people manage to live on, —
so aimless as they are ? After their peppercorn
aims are gained, it seems as if the lime in their
bones alone held them together, and not any worthy
purpose. There is no faith in the intellectual,
none in the moral universe. There is faith in
chemistry, in meat, and wine, in wealth, in machin-
ery, in the steam-engine, galvanic battery, turbine-
wheels, sewing machines, and in public opinion, but
not in divine causes. A silent revolution has loosed
the tension of the old religious sects, and, in place
of the gravity and permanence of those societies
of opinion, they run into freak and extravagance.
182 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
In creeds never was such levity ; witness the hear
thenisms in Christianity, the periodic " revivals,"
the Millennium mathematics, the peacock ritualism,
the retrogression to Popery, the maundering of
Mormons, the squalor of Mesmerism, the deliration
of rappings, the rat and mouse revelation, thun>ps in
table-drawers, and black art. The architecture, the
music, the prayer, partake of the madness ; the arts
sink into shift and make-believe. Not knowing
what to do, we ape our ancestors; the churches
stagger backward to the mummeries of the dark
ages. By the irresistible maturing of the general
mind, the Christian traditions have lost their hold.
The dogma of the mystic offices of Christ being
dropped, and he standing on his genius as a moral
teacher, 'tis impossible to maintain the old empha-
sis of his personality ; and it recedes, as all per-
sons must, before the sublimity of the moral laws.
From this change, and in the momentary absence
of any religious genius that could offset the im-
mense material activity, there is a feeling that
religion is gone. When Paul Leroux offered his
article " Bieu " to the conductor of a leading
French journal, he replied, " La question de Bieu
manque cfactualite.''^ In Italy, Mr. Gladstone
said of the late King of Naples, " it has been a
proverb, that he has erected the negation of God
into a system of government." In this country,
the like stupefaction was in the air, and the phrase
" higher law " became a political jibe. What
proof of infidelity, like the toleration and propa-
gandism of slavery? What, like the direction of
education ? What, like the facility of conversion ?
What, like the externality of churches that once
sucked the roots of right and wrong, and now have
perished away till they are a speck of whitewash on
the wall ? What proof of skepticism like the base
rate at which the highest mental and moral gifts are
held ? Let a man attain the highest and broadest
culture that any American has possessed, then let
him die by sea-storm, railroad collision, or other
accident, and all America will acquiesce that the
best thing has happened to him ; that, after the
education has gone far, such is the expensiveness
of America, that the best use to put a fine person
to, is, to drown him to save his board.
Another scar of this skepticism is the distrust in
human virtue. It is believed by well-dressed pro-
prietors that there is no more virtue than they pos-
sess ; that the solid portion of society exist for the
arts of comfort : that life is an affair to put some-
what between the upper and lower mandibles.
How prompt the suggestion of a low motive !
Certain patriots in England devoted themselves
for years to creating a public opinion that should
break down the corn-laws and establish free trade.
' Well,' says the man in the street, ' Cobden got
a stipend out of it.' Kossuth fled hither across the
184 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
ocean to try if he could rouse the New World to
a sympathy with European liberty. ' Aye,' says
New York, ' he made a handsome thing of it,
enough to make him comfortable for life.'
See what allowance vice finds in the respect-
able and well-conditioned class. If a pickpocket
intrude into the society of gentlemen, they exert
what moral force they have, and he finds himself
uncomfortable, and glad to get away. But if an
adventurer go through all the forms, procure him-
self to be elected to a post of trust, as of senator,
or president, — though by the same arts as we
detest in the house-thief, — the same gentlemen
who agree to discountenance the private rogue,
will be forward to show civilities and marks of
respect to the pubhc one : and no amount of evi-
dence of his crimes will prevent them giving him
ovations, complimentary dinners, opening their own
houses to him, and priding themselves on his ac-
quaintance. We were not deceived by the profes-
sions of the private adventurer, — the louder he
talked of his honor, the faster we counted our
spoons ; but we appeal to the sanctified preamble
of the messages and proclamations of the public
sinner, as the proof of sincerity. It must be that
they who pay this homage have said to themselves.
On the whole, we don't know about this that you
call honesty ; a bird in the hand is better.
Even well-disposed, good sort of people are
touched with the same infidelity, and for brave,
straightforward action, use half-measures and com-
promises. Forgetful that a little measure is a
great error, forgetful that a wise mechanic uses a
sharp tool, they go on choosing the dead men of
routine. But the official men can in nowise help
you in any question of to-day, they deriving entire-
ly from the old dead things. Only those can help
in counsel or conduct who did not make a party
pledge to defend this or that, but who were ap-
pointed by God Almighty, before they came into
the world, to stand for this which they uphold.
It has been charged that a want of sincerity in
the leading men is a vice general throughout Amer-
ican society. But the multitude of the sick shall
not make us deny the existence of health. In spite
of our imbecility and terrors, and " universal decay
of religion," &c. &c., the moral sense reappears to-
day with the same morning newness that has been
from of old the fountain of beauty and strength.
You say, there is no religion now. 'Tis like saying
in rainy weather, there is no sun, when at that mo-
ment we are witnessing one of his superlative effects.
The religion of the cultivated class now, to be sure,
consists in an avoidance of acts and engagements
which it was once their religion to assume. But
this avoidance will yield spontaneous forms in their
due hour. There is a principle which is the basis
of things, which all speech aims to say, and all
186 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
action to evolve, a simple, quiet, undescribed, un-
describable presence, dwelling very peacefully in us,
our rightful lord : we are not to do, but to let do ;
not to work, but to be worked upon ; and to this
homage there is a consent of all thoughtful and just
men in all ages and conditions. To this sentiment
belong vast and sudden enlargements of power.
'Tis remarkable that our faith in ecstasy consists
with total inexperience of it. It is the order of the
world to educate with accuracy the senses and the
understanding ; and the enginery at work to draw
out these powers in priority, no doubt, has its office.
But we are never without a hint that these powers
are mediate and servile, and that we are one day
to deal with real being, — essences with essences.
Even the lliry of material activity has some results
fiiendly to moral health. The energetic action of
the times develops individualism, and the religious
appear isolated. I esteem this a step in the right
direction. Heaven deals with us on no representa-
tive system. Souls are not saved in bundles. The
Spirit saith to the man, ' How is it with thee ? thee
personally ? is it well ? is it ill ? ' For a great na-
ture, it is a happiness to escape a religious training,
— religion of character is so apt to be invaded.
Religion must always be a crab fruit : it cannot be
grafted and keep its wild beauty. " I have seen,"
said a traveller who had known the extremes of so-
ciety, " I have seen human nature in all its forms,
it is everywhere the same, but the wilder it is,
the more virtuous."
We say, the old forms of religion decay, and that
a skepticism devastates the community. I do not
think it can be cured or stayed by any modification
of theologic creeds, much less by theologic disci-
pline. The cure for false theology is motherwit.
Forget your books and traditions, and obey your
moral perceptions at this hour. That which is sig-
nified by the words " moral " and " spiritual," is a
lasting essence, and, with whatever illusions we
have loaded them, will certainly bring back the
words, age after age, to their ancient meaning.
I know no words that mean so much. In our
definitions, Ave grope after the spiritual by de-
scribinoj it as invisible. The true meaning of
spiritual is real; that law which executes itself,
which works without meana, and which cannot
be conceived as not existing. Men talk of " mere
morality," — which is much as if one should say,
' poor God, with nobody to help him.' I find the
omnipresence and the almightiness in the reaction
of every atom in Nature. I can best indicate by
examples those reactions by which every part of
Nature replies to the purpose of the actor, — be-
neficently to the .good, penally to the bad. Let
us replace sentimentalism by realism, and dare to
uncover those simple and terrible laws which, be
they seen or unseen, pervade and govern.
188 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
Every man takes care that his neighbor shall not
cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to
care that he do not cheat his neighbor. Then all
goes well. He has changed his market-cart into a
chariot of the sun. What a day dawns, when we
have taken to heart the doctrine of faith I to prefer,
as a better investment, being to doing; being to
seeming ; logic to rhythm and to display ; the year
to the day ; the life to the year ; character to per-
formance; — and have come to know, that justice
will be done us ; and, if our genius is slow, the
term will be long.
'Tis certain that worship stands in some com-
manding relation to the health of man, and to his
highest powers, so as to be, in some manner, the
source of intellect. All the great ages have been
ages of belief. I mean, when there was' ^ny
extraordinary power, of performance, when great
national movements began, when arts appeared,
when heroes existed, when poems were made, the
human soul was in earnest, and had fixed its
thoughts on spiritual verities, with as strict a grasp
as that of the hands on the sword, or the pencil, or
the trowel. It is true that genius takes its rise out
of the mountains of rectitude ; that all beauty and
power which men covet, are somehow bom out of
that Alpine district ; that any extraordinary degree
of beauty in man or woman involves a moral
charm. Thus, I think, we very slowly admit in
another man a higher degree of moral sentiment
than our own, — a finer conscience, more impres-
sionable, or, which marks minuter degrees ; an ear
to hear acuter notes of right and wrong, than we
can. I think we listen suspiciously and very slowly
to any evidence to that point. But, once satisfied
of such superiority, we set no limit to our expecta-
tion of his genius. For such persons are nearer
to the secret of God than others ; are bathed by
sweeter waters ; they hear notices, they see visions,
where others are vacant. We believe that holiness
confers a certain insight, because not by our private,
but by our public force, can we share and know the
nature of things.
There is an intimate interdependence of intellect
and morals. Given the equality of two intellects,
— which will form the most reliable judgments,
the good, or the bad hearted ? " The heart has its
arguments, with which the understanding is not
acquainted." For the heart is at once aware of the
state of health or disease, which is the controUing
state, that is, of sanity or of insanity, prior, of
course, to all question of the ingenuity of argu-
ments, the amount of facts, or the elegance of
rhetoric. So intimate is this alliance of mind and
heart, that talent uniformly sinks with character.
The bias of errors of principle carries away men
into perilous courses, as soon as their will does not
control their passion or talent. Hence the extraor-
190 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
dinary blunders, and final wrong head, into which
men spoiled by ambition usually ftill. Hence the
remedy for all blunders, the cure of blindness,
the cure of crime, is love. " As much love, so
much mind," said the Latin proverb. The supe-
riority that has no superior ; the redeem or and
instinictor of souls, as it is their primal essence, is
The moral must be the measure of health. If
your eye is on the eternal, your intellect will grow,
and your opinions and actions will have a beauty
which no learning or combined advantages of other
men can rival. The moment of your loss of faith,
and acceptance of the lucrative standard, will be
marked in the pause, or solstice of genius, the se-
quent retrogression, and the inevitable loss of attrac-
tion to other minds. The vulgar are sensible of the
change in you, and of your descent, though they
clap you on the back, and congratulate you on your
increased common sense.
Our recent culture has been in natural science.
We have learned the manners of the sun and of the
moon, of the rivei's and the rains, of the mineral
and elemental kingdoms, of plants and animals.
Man has learned to weigh the sun, and its weight
neither loses nor gains. The path of a star, the
moment of an eclipse, can be determined to the
fraction of a second. Well, to him the book of
history, the book of love, the lures of passion, and
the commandments of duty are opened : and the
next lesson taught, is, the continuation of the inflex-
ible law of matter into the subtile kingdom of will,
and of thought ; that, if, in sidereal ages, gravity
and projection keep their craft, and the ball never
loses its way in its wild path through space, — a
secreter gravitation, a secreter projection, rule not
less tyrannically in human history, and keep the
balance of power from age to age unbroken. For,
thouo-h the new element of freedom and an indi-
vidual has been admitted, yet the primordial atoms
are prefigured and predetermined to moral issues,
are in search of justice, and ultimate right is done.
Religion or worship is the attitude of those who see
this unity, intimacy, and sincerity ; who see that,
against all appearances, the nature of things works
for truth and right forever.
'Tis a short sight to limit our faith in laws to
those of gravity, of chemistry, of botany, and so
forth. Those laws do not stop where our eyes lose
them, but push the same geometry and chemistry
up into the invisible plane of social and rational
life, so that, look where we will, in a boy's game^
or in the strifes of races, a perfect reaction, a per-
petual judgment keeps watch and ward. And this
appears in a class of facts which concerns all men,
within and above their creeds.
Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circum-
stances : It was somebody's name, or he happened
192 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
to be there at the time, or, it was so then, and an-
other day it would have been otherwise. Strong
men beheve in cause and effect. The man was
born to do it, and his father was born to be the
father of him and of this deed, and, by looking nar-
rowly, you shall see there was no luck in the mat>-
ter, but it was all a problem in arithmetic, or an
experiment in chemistry. The curve of the flight
of the moth is preordained, and all things go by
number, rule, and weight.
Skepticism is unbelief in cause and effect. A
man does not see, that, as he eats, so he thinks : as
he deals, so he is, and so he appears ; he does not
see, that his son is the son of his thoughts and
of his actions ; that fortunes are not exceptions
but fruits ; that relation and connection are not
somewhere and sometimes, but everywhere and al-
ways ; no miscellany, no exemption, no anomaly, —
but method, and an even web ; and what comes out,
that was put in. As we are, so we do ; and as we
do, so is it done to us ; we are the builders of our
fortunes ; cant and lying and the attempt to secure
a good which does not belong to us, are, once for
all, balked and vain. But, in the human mind, this
tie of fate is made alive. The law is the basis of
the human mind. In us, it is inspiration ; out
there in Nature, we see its fatal strength. We call
it the moral sentiment.
We owe to the Hindoo Scriptures a definition of
Law, which compares well with any in our Western
books. " Law it is, which is without name, or
color, or hands, or feet ; which is smallest of the
least, and largest of the large ; all, and knowing
all things ; which hears without ears, sees with-
out eyes, moves without feet, and seizes without
If any reader tax me with using vague and tra-
ditional phrases, let me suggest to him, by a few
examples, what kind of a trust this is, and how real.
Let me show him that the dice are loaded ; that the
colors are fast, because they are the native colors
of the fleece ; that the globe is a battery, because
every atom is a magnet ; and that the police and
sincerity of the Universe are secured by God's dele-
gating his divinity to every particle ; that there is
no room for hypocrisy, no margin for choice.
The countryman leaving his native village, for
the first time, and going abroad, finds all his habits
broken up. In a new nation and language, his sect,
as Quaker, or Lutheran, is lost. What ! it is not
then necessary to the order and existence of so-
ciety? He misses this, and the commanding eye
of his neighborhood, which held him to decorum.
This is the peril of New York, of New Orleans, of
London, of Paris, to young men. But after a little
experience, he makes the discovery that there are
no large cities, — none large enough to hide in ;
that the censors of action are as numerous and as
194 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
near in Paris, as in Littleton or Portland ; that the
gossip is as prompt and vengeful. There is no con-
cealment, and, for each offence, a several vengeance ;
that, reaction, or nothing for nothing^ or, tilings are
as broad as tTiey are long, is not a rule for Littleton
or Portland, but for the Universe.
We cannot spare the coarsest muniment of vir-
tue. We are disgusted by gossip ; yet it is of
importance to keep the angels in their proprieties.
The smallest fly will draw blood, and gossip is a
weapon impossible to exclude from the privatest,
highest, selectest. Nature created a police of many
ranks. God has delegated himself to a million dep-
uties. From these low external penalties, the scale
ascends. Next come the resentments, the fears,
which injustice calls out ; then, the false relations
in which the offender is put to other men ; and the
reaction of his fault on himself, in the solitude and
devastation of his mind.
You cannot hide any secret. If the artist succor
his flagging spirits by opium or wine, his work will
characterize itself as the effect of opium or wine.
If you make a picture or a statue, it sets the be-
holder in that state of mind you had, when you
made it. If you spend for show, on building, or
gardening, or on pictures, or on equipages, it will so
appear. We are all physiognomists and penetrators
of character, and things themselves are detective.
If you follow the suburban fashion in building a
sumptuous-looking house for a little money, it will
appear to all eyes as a cheap dear house. There
is no privacy that cannot be penetrated. No secret
Can be kept in the civilized world. Society is a
masked ball, where every one hides his real char-
acter, and reveals it by hiding. If a man wish to
conceal anything he carries, those whom he meets
know that he conceals somewhat, and usually know
what he conceals. Is it otherwise if there be some
belief or some purpose he would bury in his breast ?
'Tis as hard to hide as fire. He is a strong man
who can hold down his opinion. A man cannot
utter two or three sentences, without disclosing to
intelligent ears precisely where he stands in life
and thought, namely, whether in the kingdom
of the senses and the understanding, or, in that
of ideas and imagination, in the realm of intuitions
and duty. People seem not to see that their opin-
ion of the world is also a confession of character.
We can only see what we are, and if we misbehave
we suspect others. The fame of Shakspeare or of
Voltaire, of Thomas a Kempis, or of Bonaparte,
characterizes those who give it. As gas-light is
found to be the best nocturnal police, so the uni-
verse protects itself by pitiless publicity.
Each must be armed — not necessarily with mus-
ket and pike. Happy, if, seeing these, he can feel
that he has better muskets and pikes in his en-
ergy and constancy. To every creature is his own
196 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
weapon, however skilfully concealed from himself,
a good while. His work is sword and shield.
Let him accuse none, let him injure none. The
way to mend the bad world, is to create the right
world. Here is a low political economy plotting to
cut the throat of foreign competition, and establish
our own ; — excluding others by force, or making
war on them ; or, by cunning tariffs, giving prefer-
ence to worse wares of ours. But the real and
lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
The way to conquer the foreign artisan, is, not to
kill him, but to beat his work. And the Crystal
Palaces and World Fairs, with their committees
and prizes on all kinds of industry, are the re-
sult of this feeling. The American workman who
strikes ten blows with his hammer, whilst the for-
eign workman only strikes one, is as really van-
quishing that foreigner, as if the blows were aimed
at and told on his person. I look on that man
as happy, who, when there is question of success,
looks into his work for a reply, not into the
market, not into opinion, not into patronage. In
every variety of human employment, in the me-
chanical and in the fine arts, in navigation, in farm-
ing, in legislating, there are among the numbers
who do their task perfunctorily, as we say, or just
to pass, and as badly as they dare, — there are the
working-men, on whom the burden of the business
falls, — those who love work, and love to see it
rightly done, who finish their task for its own sake ;
and the state and the world is happy, that has the
most of such finishers. The world will always do
justice at last to such finishers : it cannot otherwise.
He who has acquired the ability, may wait securely
the occasion of making it felt and appreciated, and
know that it will not loiter. Men talk as if vic-
tory were something fortunate. Work is victory.
Wherever work is done, victory is obtained. There
is no chance, and no blanks. You want but one
verdict : if you have your own, you are secure of
the rest. And yet, if witnesses are wanted, wit-
nesses are near. There was never a man born so
wise or good, but one or more companions came
into the world with him, who delight in his faculty,
and report it. I cannot see without awe, that no
man thinks alone, and no man acts alone, but the
divine assessors who came up with him into Hfe,
— now under one disguise, now under another, —
like a police in citizens' clothes, walk with him,
step for step, through all the kingdom of time.
This reaction, this sincerity is the property of all
things. To make our word or act sublime, we
must make it real. It is our system that counts,
not the single word or unsupported action. Use
what language you will, you can never say any-
thing but what you are. What I am, and what I
think, is conveyed to you, in spite of my efforts to
hold it back. What I am has been secretly con-
198 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
veyed from me to another, whilst I was vainly
making up my mind to tell him it. He has heard
from me what I never spoke.
As men get on in life, they acquire a love for
sincerity, and somewhat less solicitude to be lulled
or amused. In the progress of the character, there
is an increasing faith in the moral sentiment, and
a decreasing faith in propositions. Young people
admire talents, and particular excellences. As we
grow older, we value total powers and effects, as
the spirit, or quality of the man. We have another
sight, and a new standard ; an insight which disre-
gards what is done for the eye, and pierces to the
doer ; an ear which hears not what men say, but
hears what they do not say.
There was a wise, devout man who is called, in
the Catholic Church, St. Philip Neri, of whom
many anecdotes touching his discernment and be-
nevolence are told at Naples and Rome. Among
the nuns in a convent not far from Rome, one had
appeared, who laid claim to certain rare gifts of
inspiration and prophecy, and the abbess advised
the Holy Father, at Rome, of the wonderful powers
shown by her novice. The Pope did not well know
what to make of these new claims, and Philip com-
ing in from a journey, one day, he consulted him.
Philip undertook to visit the nun, and ascertain
her character. He threw himself on his mule, all
travel-soiled as he was, and hastened through the
mud and mire to the distant convent. He told the
abbess the wishes of his Holiness, and begged her
to summon the nun without delay. The nun was
sent for, and, as soon as she came into the apart-
ment, Philip stretched out his leg all bespattered
with mud, and desired her to draw off his boots.
The young nun, who had become the object of much'
attention and respect, drew back with anger, and re-
fused the office : Philip ran out of doors, mounted his
mule, and returned instantly to the Pope ; " Give
yourself no uneasiness. Holy Father, any longer :
here is no miracle, for here is no humility."
We need not much mind what people please to
say, but what they must say ; what their natures
say, though their busy, artful, Yankee understand-
ings try to hold back, and choke that word, and
to articulate something different. If we will sit
quietly, — what they ought to say is said, with their
will, or against their will. We do not care for
you, let us pretend what we wdll : — we are always
looking through you to the dim dictator behind
you. Whilst your habit or whim chatters, we
civilly and impatiently wait until that wise supe-
rior shall speak again. Even children are not
deceived by the false reasons which their parents
give in answer to their questions, whether touch-
ing natural facts, or religion, or persons. When
the parent, instead of thinking how it really is,
puts them off with a traditional or a hypocritical
200 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
answer, the children perceive th^t it is traditional
or hypocritical. To a sound constitution the defect
of another is at once manifest : and the marks of it
are only concealed from us by our own dislocation.
An anatomical observer remarks, that the sympa-
thies of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, tell at last
on the face, and on all its features. Not only does
our beauty waste, but it leaves word how it went to
waste. Physiognomy and phrenology are not new
sciences, but declarations of the soul that it is aware
of certain new sources of information. And now
sciences of broader scope are starting up behind
these. And so for ourselves, it is really of little
importance what blmiders in statement we make,
so only we make no wilful departures from the
truth. How a man's truth comes to mind, long
after we have forgotten all his words I How
it comes to us in silent hours, that truth is our
only armor iu all passages of hfe and death ! Wit
is cheap, and anger is cheap ; but if you cannot
argue or explain yourself to the other party, cleave
to the truth against me, against thee, and you gain
a station from which you cannot be dislodged. The
other party will forget the words that you spoke,
but the part you took continues to plead for you.
Why should I hasten to solve every riddle which
life offers me ? I am well assured that the Ques-
tioner, who brings me so many problems, will bring
the answers also in due time. Very rich, very po-
tent, very cheerful Giver that he is, he shall have it
all his own way, for me. Why should I give up
my thought, because I cannot answer an objection
to it ? Consider only, whether it remains in my
life the same it was. That only which we have
within, can we see without. If .we meet no gods,
it is because we harbor none. If there is gran-
deur in you, you will find grandeur in porters and
sweeps. He only is rightly immortal, to whom all
things are immortal. I have read somewhere, that
none is accomplished, so long as any are incom-
plete ; that the happiness of one cannot consist with
the misery of any other.
The Buddhists say, " No seed will die ; " every
seed will grow. Where is the service which can
escape its remuneration ? What is vulgar, and the
essence of all vulgarity, but the avarice of reward ?
'Tis the difference of artisan and artist, of talent
and genius, of sinner and saint. The man whose
eyes are nailed not on the nature of his act, but on
the wages, whether it be money, or office, or fame,
— is almost equally low. He is great, whose eyes
are opened to see that the reward of actions cannot
be escaped, because he is transformed into his ac-
tion, and taketh its nature, which bears its own
fruit, like every other tree. A great man cannot
be hindered of the effect of his act, because it is
immediate. The genius of life is friendly to the
noble, and in the dark brings them friends from far.
202 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
Fear God, and where you go, men shall think they
walk in hallowed cathedrals.
And so I look on those sentiments which make
the glory of the human being, love, humility, faith,
as being also the intimacy of Divinity in the atoms ;
and, that, as soon as the man is right, assurances
and previsions emanate from the interior of his
body and his mind ; as, when flowers reach their
ripeness, incense exhales fi'om them, and, as a
beautiful atmosphere is generated from the planet
by the averaged emanations from all its rocks and
Thus man is made equal to every event. He
can face danger for the right. A poor, tender,
painful body, he can run into flame or bullets or
pestilence, with duty for his guide. He feels the
insurance of a just employment. I am not afraid
of accident, as long as I am in my place. It is
strange that superior persons should not feel that
they have some better resistance against cholera,
than avoiding green peas and salads. Life is hardly
respectable, — is it ? if it has no generous, guaran-
teeing task, no duties or affections, that constitute
a necessity of existing. Every man's task is his life-
preserver. The conviction that his work is dear
to God and cannot be spared, defends him. The
lightning-rod that disarms the cloud of its threat
is his body in its duty. A high aim reacts on
the means, on the days, on the organs of the
body. A high aim is curative, as well as arnica.
" Napoleon," says Goethe, " visited those sick of
the plague, in order to prove that the man who
could vanquish fear, could vanquish the plague
also ; and he was right. 'Tis incredible what
force the will has in such cases : it penetrates the
body, and puts it in a state of activity, which
repels all hurtful influences ; wliilst fear invites
It is related of William of Orange, that, whilst
he was besieging a town on the continent, a gen-
tleman sent to him on public business came to his
camp, and, learning that the King was before the
walls, he ventured to go where he was. He found
him directing the operation of his gunners, and,
having explained his errand, and received his an-
swer, the King said, " Do you not know, sir, that
every moment you spend here is at the risk of your
life ? " "I run no more risk," replied the gentle-
man, " than your Majesty." " Yes," said the
King, " but my duty brings me here, and yours
does not." In a few minutes, a cannon-ball fell
on the spot, and the gentleman was killed.
Thus can the faithful student reverse all the
warnings of his early instinct, under the guidance
of a deeper instinct. He learns to welcome mis-
fortune, learns that adversity is the prosperity of
the great. He learns the greatness of humility.
He shall work in the dark, work against failure,
204 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
pain, and ill-will. If he is insulted, he can be
insulted ; all his affair is not to insult. Hafiz
At the last day, men shall wear
On their heads the dust,
As ensign and as ornament
Of their lowly trust.
The moral equahzes all ; enriches, empowers all.
It is the coin which buys all, and which all find in
their pocket. Under the whip of the driver, the
slave shall feel his equality with saints and heroes.
In the greatest destitution and calamity, it surprises
man with a feeling of elasticity which makes noth-
ing of loss.
I recall some traits of a remarkable person whose
life and discourse betrayed many inspirations of this
sentiment. Benedict was always great in the pres-
ent time. He had hoarded nothing from the past,
neither in his cabinets, neither in his memory. He
had no designs on the future, neither for what he
should do to men, nor for what men should do for
him. He said, ' I am never beaten until I know
that I am beaten. I meet powerful brutal people
to whom I have no skill to reply. They think they
have defeated me. It is so published in society, in
the journals ; I am defeated in this fashion, in all
men's sight, perhaps on a dozen different lines. My
leger may show that I am in debt, cannot yet make
my ends meet, and vanquish the enemy so. My
race maj not be prospering : we are sick, ugly,
obscure, unpopular. My children may be worsted.
I seem to fail in my friends and clients, too. That
is to say, in all the encounters that have yet
chanced, I have not been weaponed for that par-
ticular occasion, and have been historically beaiten ;
and yet, I know, all the time, that I have never
been beaten ; have never yet fought, shall certainly
fight, when my hour comes, and shall beat.' " A
man," says the Vishnu Sarma, " who having well
compared his own strength or weakness with that
of others, after all doth not know the difference, is
easily overcome by his enemies."
' I spent,' he said, ' ten months in the coun-
try. Thick-starred Orion was my only companion.
Wherever a squirrel or a bee can go with security,
I can go. I ate whatever was set before me ; I
touched ivy and dogwood. When I went abroad,
I kept company with every man on the road, for I
knew that my evil and my good did not come from
these, but tfom the Spirit, whose servant I was.
For I could not stoop to be a circumstance, as they
did, who put their life into their fortune and their
company. I would not degrade myself by casting
about in my memory for a thought, nor by waiting
for one. If the thought come, I would give it
entertainment. It should, as it ought, go into my
hands and feet ; but if it come not spontaneously, it
comes not rightly at all. If it can spare me, I am
206 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
sure I can spare it. It shall be the same with my
friends. I will never woo the loveliest. I will not
ask any friendship or favor. When I come to my
own, we shall both know it. Nothing will be to be
asked or to be granted.' Benedict went out to seek
his friend, and met him on the way ; but he ex-
pressed no surprise at any coincidences. On the
other hand, if he called at the door of his friend,
and he was not at home, he did not go again ;
concluduig that he had misinterpreted the intima-
He had the whim not to make an apology to
the same individual whom he had Avronged. For
this, he said, was a piece of personal vanity ;
but he would correct his conduct in that respect
in which he had faulted, to the next person he
should meet. Thus, he said, universal justice was
Mira came to ask what she should do with the
poor Genesee woman who had hired herself to work
for her, at a shilling a day, and, now sickening, was
like to be bedridden on her hands. Should she
keep her, or should she dismiss her ? But Benedict
said, ' Why ask ? One thing will clear itself as the
thing to be done, and not another, when the hour
comes. Is it a question, whether to put her into
the street? Just as much whether to thrust the
little Jenny on your arm into the street. The
milk and meal you give the beggar, will fatten
Jenny. Thrust the woman out, and you thrust,
your babe out of doors, whether it so seem to you
In the Shakers, so called, I find one piece of be-
lief, in the doctrine which they faithfully hold, that
encourages them to open their doors to every way-
faring man who proposes to come among them ; for,
they say, the Spirit will presently manifest to the
man himself, and to the society, what manner of
person he is, and whether he belongs among them.
They do not receive him, they do not reject him.
And not in vain have they worn their clay coat,
and drudged in their fields, and shuffled in their
Bruin dance, from year to year, if they have truly
learned thus much wisdom.
Honor him whose life is perpetual victory ; him,
who, by sympathy with the invisible and real, finds
support in labor, instead of praise ; who does not
shine, and would rather not. With eyes open, he
makes the choice of virtue, which outrages the vir-
tuous ; of religion, which churches stop their dis-
cords to burn and exterminate ; for the highest
virtue is always against the law.
Miracle comes to the miraculous, not to the
arithmetician. Talent and success interest me but
moderately. The great class, they who affect our
imagination, the men who could not make their
hands meet around their objects, the rapt, the
lost, the fools of ideas, — they suggest what they
208 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
cannot execute. They speak to the ages, and
are heard from afar. The Spirit does not love
cripples and malformations. If there ever was a
good man, be certain, there was another, and will
And so in relation to that future hour, that spec-
tre clothed with beauty at our curtain by night, at
our table by day, — the apprehension, the assur-
ance of a coming change. The race of mankind
have always offered at least this implied thanks for
the gift of existence, — namely, the terror of its
being taken away ; the insatiable curiosity and ap-
petite for its continuation. The whole revelation
that is vouchsafed us, is, the gentle trust, whicb, in
our experience we find, will cover also with flowers
the slopes of this chasm.
Of immortality, the soul, when well employed, is
incurious. It is so well, that it is sure it will be
well. It asks no questions of the Supreme Power.
The son of Antiochus asked his father, when he
would join battle ? " Dost thou fear," replied the
King, " that thou only in all the army wilt not hear
the trumpet ?" 'Tis a higher thing to confide, that,
if it is best we should live, we shall live, — 'tis
higher to have this conviction, than to have the
lease of indefinite centuries and millenniums and
aeons. Higher than the question of our duration is
the question of our deserving. Immortality will
come to such as are fit for it, and he who would be
a great soul in future, must be a great soul now.
It is a doctrine too great to rest on any legend, that
is, on any man's experience but our own. It must
be proved, if at all, from our own activity and de-
signs, which imply an interminable future for their
What is called religion effeminates and demoral-
izes. Such as you are, the gods themselves could
not help you. Men are too often unfit to live, from
their obvious inequality to their own necessities, or,
they suffer from politics, or bad neighbors, or from
sickness, and they would gladly know that they
were to be dismissed from the duties of hfe. But
the wise instinct asks, ' How will death help them ? '
These are not dismissed when they die. You shall
not wish for death out of pusillanimity. The weight
of the Universe is pressed down on the shoulders of
each moral agent to hold him to his task. The
only path of escape known in all the worlds of God
is performance. You must do your work, before
you shall be released. And as far as it is a ques-
tion of fact respecting the government of the Uni-
verse, Marcus Antoninus summed the whole in a
word, "It is pleasant to die, if there be gods ; and
sad to live, if there be none."
And so I think that the last lesson of life, the
choral song which rises from all elements and all
angels, is, a voluntary obedience, a necessitated free-
dom. Man is made of the same atoms as the world
210 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
is, he shares the same impressions, predispositions,
and destiny. When his mind is illuminated, when
his heart is kind, he throws himself joyfully into
the sublime order, and does, with knowledge, what
the stones do by structure.
The religion which is to guide and fulfil the pres-
ent and coming ages, whatever else it be, must be
intellectual. The scientific mind must have a faith
which is science. " There are two things," said
Mahomet, " which I abhor, the learned in his infi-
delities, and the fool in his devotions." Our times
are impatient of both, and specially of the last.
Let us have nothing now which is not its own evi-
dence. There is surely enough for the heart and
iftiagination in the religion itself. Let us not be
pestered with assertions and half-truths, with emo-
tions and snuffle.
There will be a new church founded on moral
science, at first cold and naked, a babe in a manger
again, the algebra and mathematics of ethical law,
the church of men to come, without shawms, or
psaltery, or sackbut ; but it will have heaven and
earth for its beams and rafters ; science for symbol
and illustration ; it will fast enough gather beauty,
music, picture, poetry. Was never stoicism so
stem and exigent as this shall be. It shall send
man home to his central solitude, shame these social,
supplicating manners, and make him know that
much of the time he must have himself to his
^ WORSHIP. 211
friend. He shall expect no cooperation, he shall
walk with no companion. The nameless Thought,
the nameless Power, the superpersonal Heart, — he
shall repose alone on that. He needs only his own
verdict. No good fame can help, no had fame can
hurt him. The Laws are his consolers, the good
Laws themselves are alive, they know if he have
kept them, they animate him with the leading of
great duty, and an endless horizon. Honor and
fortune exist to him who always recognizes the
neighborhood of the great, always feels himself in
the presence of high causes.
CONSIDEKATIONS BY THE WAY.
Hear what British Merlin sung,
Of keenest eye and truest tongue.
Say not, the chiefs who first arrive
Usurp the seats for which all strive ;
The forefathers this land who found
Failed to plant the vantage-ground ;
Ever from one who comes to-morrow
Men wait their good and truth to borrow.
But wilt thou measure all thy road,
See thou Hft the lightest load.
Who has little, to him who has less, can spare,
And thou, Cyndyllan's son ! beware
Ponderous gold and stuffs to bear,
To falter ere thou thy task fulfil,—
Only the light-armed cUmb the hill.
The richest of all lords is Use,
And ruddy Health the loftiest Muse.
Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,
Drink the wild air's salubrity :
Where the star Canope shines in May,
Shepherds are thankful, and nations gay.
The music that can deepest reach,
And cure all ill, is cordial speech :
Mask thy wisdom with delight.
Toy with the bow, yet hit the white.
Of all wit's uses, the main one
Is to live well with who has none.
Cleave to thine acre ; the round year
Will fetch all fruits and virtues here :
Fool and foe may harmless roam.
Loved and lovers bide at home.
A day for toil, an hour for sport,
But for a friend is life too short.
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY.
Although this garrulity of advising is born with
us, I confess that Hfe is rather a subject of wonder,
than of didactics. So much fate, so much irresist^
ible dictation from temperament and unknown in-
spiration enters into it, that we doubt we can say
anything out of our own experience whereby to
help each other. All the professions are timid
and expectant agencies. The priest is glad if his
prayers or his sermon meet the condition of any
soul ; if of two, if of ten, 'tis a signal success. But
he walked to the chm'ch without any assurance
that he knew the distemper, or could heal it. The
physician prescribes hesitatingly out of his few re-
sources, the same tonic or sedative to this new and
peculiar constitution, which he has applied with
various success to a hundred men before. If the
patient mends, he is glad and surprised. The law-
yer advises the client, and tells his story to the jury,
and leaves it with them, and is as gay and as much
relieved as the client, if it turns out that he has
a verdict. The judge weighs the arguments, and
puts a brave face on the matter, and, since there
216 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
must be a decision, decides as he can, and hopes he
has done justice, and given satisfaction to the com-
munity ; but is only an advocate after all. And
so is all life a timid and unskilful spectator. We
do what we must, and call it by the best names.
We like very well to be praised for our action,
but our conscience says, " Not unto us." 'Tis
little we can do for each other. We accompany
the youth with sympathy, and manifold old sayings
of the wise, to the gate of the arena, but 'tis cer-
tain that not by strength of ours, or of the old say-
ings, but only on strength of his own, unknown to
us or to any, he must stand or fall. That by which
a man conquers in any passage, is a profound secret
to every other being in the world, and it is only as
he turns his back on us and on all men, and draws
on this most private wisdom, that any good can
come to him. What we have, therefore, to say of
life, is rather description, or, if you please, cele-
bration, than available rules.
Yet vigor is contagious, and whatever makes us
either think or feel strongly,' adds to our power, and
enlarges our field of action. We have a debt to
every great heart, to every fine genius ; to those
who have put life and fortune on the cast of an act
of justice ; to those who have added new sciences ;
to those who have refined life by elegant pursuits.
'Tis the fine souls who serve us, and not what is
called fine society. Fine society is only a self-
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 217
protection against the vulgarities of the street and
the tavern. Fine society, in the common accepta-
tion, has neither ideas nor aims. It renders the
service of a perfumery, or a laundry, not of a
farm or factory. 'Tis an exclusion and a precinct.
Sidney Smith said, " A few yards in London ce-
ment or dissolve friendship." It is an. unprincipled
decorum ; an affair of clean linen and coaches, of
gloves, cards, and elegance in trifles. There are
other measures of self-respect for a man, than the
number of clean shirts he puts on every day. So-
ciety wishes to be amused. I do not wish to be
amused. I wish that life should not be cheap, but
sacred. I wish the days to be as centuries, loaded,
fragrant. Now we reckon them as bank-days, by
some debt which is to be paid us, or which we are
to pay, or some pleasure we are to taste. Is all we
have to do to draw the breath in, and blow it out
again ? Porphyry's definition is better ; " Life is
that which holds matter together." The babe in
arms is a channel through which the energies we
call fate, love, and reason, visibly stream. See
what a cometary train of auxiliaries man carries
with him, of animals, plants, stones, gases, and im-
ponderable elements. Let us infer his ends from
this pomp of means. Mirabeau said, " Why should
we feel ourselves to be men, unless it be to succeed
in everything, everywhere. You must say of noth-
ing. That is beneath me, nor feel that anything can
218 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
be out of your power. Nothing is impossible to
the man who can wilh Is that necessary ? That
shall he: — this is the only law of success." Who-
ever said it, this is in the right key. But this is
not the tone and genius of the men in the street.
In the streets, we grow cynical. The men we
meet are coarse and torpid. The finest wits
have their sediment. What quantities of fribbles,
paupers, invalids, epicures, antiquaries, politicians,
thieves, and triflers of both sexes, might be advan-
tageously spared ! Mankind divides itself into two
classes, — benefactors and malefactors. The second
class is vast, the first a handful. A person seldom
falls sick, but the bystanders are animated with a
faint hope that he will die : — quantities of poor
lives ; of distressing invalids ; of cases for a gun.
Franklin said, " Mankind are very superficial and
dastardly: they begin upon a thing, but, meeting
with a difficulty, they fly from it discouraged : but
they have capacities, if they would employ them."
Shall we then judge a country by the majority,
or by the minority ? By the minority, surely.
'Tis pedantry to estimate nations by the census, or
by square miles of land, or other than by their im-
portance to the mind of the time.
Leave this hypocritical prating about the masses.
Masses are rude, lame, unmade, pernicious in their
demands and influence, and need not to be flattered
but to be schooled. I wish not to concede any-
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 219
thing to them, but to tame, drill, divide, and break
them up, and draw individuals out of them. The
worst of charity is, that the lives you are asked to
preserve are not worth preserving. Masses ! the
calamity is the masses. I do not wish any mass
at all, but honest men only, lovely, sweet, accom-
plished women only, and no shovel-handed, nar-
row-brained, gin-drinking million stockingers or
lazzaroni at all. If government knew how, I
should like to see it check, not multiply the pop-
ulation. When it reaches its true law of action,
every man that is born will be hailed as essential.
Away with this hurrah of masses, and let us have
the considerate vote of single men spoken on their
honor and their conscience. In old Egypt, it was
established law, that the vote of a prophet be reck-
oned equal to a hundred hands. I think it was
much under-estimated. " Clay and clay differ in
dignity," as we disc^er by our preferences every
day. What a vicious practice is this of our- poli-
ticians at Washington pairing off! as if one man
who votes wrong, going away, could excuse you,
who mean to vote right, for going away ; or, as
if your presence did not tell in more ways than
in your vote. Suppose the three hundred he-
roes at Thermopylae had paired off with three
hundred Persians : would it have been all the
same to Greece, and to history ? Napoleon was
called by his men Cent Mille. Add honesty to
220 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
him, and they might have called him Hundred
Nature makes fifty poor melons for one that
is good, and shakes down a tree full of gnarled,
wormy, unripe crabs, before you can find a dozen
dessert apples ; and she scatters nations of naked
Indians, and nations of clothed Christians, with two
or three good heads among them. Nature works
very hard, and only hits the white once in a million
throws. In mankind, she is contented if she yields
one master in a century. The more difficulty there
is in creating good men, the more they are used
when they come. I once counted in a little neigh-
borhood, and found that every able-bodied man
had, say from twelve to fifteen persons dependent
on him for material aid, — to whom he is to be for
spoon and jug, for backer and sponsor, for nursery
and hospital, and many functions beside : nor does
it seem to make much difference whether he is
bachelor or patriarch ; if he do not violently decline
the duties that fall to him, this amount of helpful-
ness will in one way or another be brought home to
him. This is the tax which his abilities pay. The
good men are employed for private centres of use,
and for larger influence. All revelations, whether
of mechanical or intellectual or moral science, are
made not to communities, but to single persons.
All the marked events of our day, all the cities, all
the colonizations, may be traced back to their origin
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 221
in a private brain. All the feats which make our
civility were the thoughts of a few good heads.
Meantime, this spawning productivity is not nox-
ious or needless. You would say, this rabble of
nations might be spared. But no, they are all
counted and depended on. Fate keeps everything
alive so long as the smallest thread of public
necessity holds it on to the tree. The coxcomb
and bully and thief class are allowed as proletaries,
every one of their vices being the excess or acridity
of a virtue. The mass are animal, in pupilage, and
near chimpanzee. But the units, whereof this mass
is composed are neuters, every one of which may
be grown to a queen-bee. The rule is, we are
used as brute atoms, until we think : then, we
use all the rest. Nature turns all malfaisance to
good. Nature provided for real needs. No sane
man at last distrusts himself. His existence is a
perfect answer to all sentimental cavils. If he is,
he is wanted, and has the precise properties that
are required. That we are here, is proof we ought
to be here. We have as good right, and the same
sort of right to be here, as Cape Cod or Sandy
Hook have to be there.
To say then, the majority are wicked, means no
malice, no bad heart in the observer, but, simply,
that the majority are unripe, and have not yet
come to themselves, do not yet know their opinion.
That^ if they knew it, is an oracle for them and for
222 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
all. But in the passing moment, the quadruped in-
terest is very prone to prevail : and this beast-force,
whilst it makes the discipline of the world, the
school of heroes, the glory of martyrs, has pro-
voked, in every age, the satire of wits, and the tears
of good men. They find the journals, the clubs, the
governments, the churches, to be in the interest, and
the pay of the devil. . And wise men have met this
obstruction in their times, Hke Socrates, with his
famous irony ; like Bacon, with life-long dissimula-
tion ; like Erasmus, with his book " The Praise of
Folly ; " like Rabelais, with his satire rending the
nations. " They were the fools who cried against
me, you will say," wrote the Chevalier de Boufflers
to Grimm ; " aye, but the fools have the advantage
of numbers, and 'tis that which decides. 'Tis of
no use for us to make war with them ; we shall not
weaken them ; they will always be the masters.
There will not be a practice or an usage introduced,
of which they are not the authors."
In front of these sinister facts, the first lesson of
history is the good of evil. Good is a good doctor,
but Bad is sometimes a better. 'Tis the oppres-
sions of WilHam the Norman, savage forest-laws,
and crushing despotism, that made possible the in-
spirations of Magna Charta under John. Edward I.
wanted money, armies, castles, and as much as he
could get. It was necessary to call the people to-
gether by shorter, swifter ways, — and the House
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 223
of Commons arose. To obtain subsidies, he paid
in privileges. In the twenty-fourth year of his
reign, he decreed, " that no tax should be lev-
ied without consent of Lords and Commons ; " —
which is the basis of the English Constitution.
Plutarch affirms that the cruel wars which fol-
lowed the march of Alexander, introduced the
civihty, language, and arts of Greece into the
savage East ; introduced marriage ; built seventy
cities ; and united hostile nations under one gov-
ernment. The barbarians who broke up the
Roman empire did not arrive a day too soon.
Schiller says, the Thirty Years' War made Ger-
many a nation. Rough, selfish despots serve men
immensely, as Henry VIII. in the contest with the
Pope ; as the infatuations no less than the w^isdom
of Cromwell ; as the ferocity of the Russian czars ;
as the fanaticism of the French regicides of 1789.
The frost which kills the harvest of a year, saves
the harvests of a century, by destroying the weevil
or the locust. Wars, fires, plagues, break up im-
movable routine, clear the ground of rotten races
and dens of distemper, and open a fair field to
new men. There is a tendency in things to right
themselves, and the war or revolution or bank-
ruptcy that shatters a rotten system, allows things
to take a new and natural order. The sharpest
evils are bent into that periodicity which makes the
errors of planets, and the fevers and distempers
224 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
of men, self-limiting. Nature is upheld by antag-
onism. Passions, resistance, danger, are educators.
We acquire the strength we have overcome. With-
out war, no soldier ; without enemies, no hero.
The sun were insipid, if the universe were not
opaque. And the glory of character is in affront-
ing the horrors of depravity, to draw thence new
nobilities of power : as Art lives and thrills in
new use and combining of contrasts, and mining
into the dark evermore for blacker pits of night.
What would painter do, or what would poet or
saint, but for crucifixions and hells ? And ever-
more in the world is this marvelious balance of
beauty and disgust, magnificence and rats. Not
Antoninus, but a poor washer- woman said, " The
more trouble, the more lion ; that's my principle."
I do not think very respectfully of the designs or
the doings of the people who went to California, in
1849. It was a rush and a scramble of needy ad-
venturers, and, in the western country, a general
jail-delivery of all the rowdies of the rivers. Some
of them went with honest purposes, some with very
bad ones, and all of them with the very common-
place wish to find a short way to wealth. But
Nature watches over all, and turns this malfaisance
to good. California gets peopled and subdued, —
civilized in this immoral way^ — and, on this fiction,
a real prosperity is rooted and grown. 'Tis a de-
coy-duck ; 'tis tubs thrown to amuse the whale ;
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 225
but real ducks, and whales that yield oil, are
caught. And, out of Sabine rapes, and out of
robbers' forays, real Romes and their heroisms
come in fulness of time.
In America, the geography is sublime, but the
men are not : the inventions are excellent, but the
inventors one is sometimes ashamed of. The agen-
cies by which events so grand as the opening of
California, of Texas, of Oregon, and the junction
of the two oceans, are effected, are paltry, — coarse
selfishness, fraud, and conspiracy : and most of the
great results of history are brought about by dis-
The benefaction derived in Illinois, and the great
West, from railroads is inestimable, and vastly ex-
ceeding any intentional philanthropy on record.
What is the benefit done by a good King Alfred,
or by a Howard, or Pestalozzi, or Elizabeth Fry,
or Florence Nightingale, or any lover, less or
larger, compared with the involuntary blessing
wrought on nations by the selfish capitalists who
built the Illinois, Michigan, and the network of the
Mississippi valley roads, which have evoked not
only all the wealth of the soil, but the energy of
millions of men.' 'Tis a sentence of ancient wis-
dom, "that God hangs the greatest weights on the
What happens thus to nations, befalls every day
in private houses. When the friends of a gentle-
226 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
man brought to his notice the follies of his sons,
with many hints of their danger, he replied, that he
knew so much mischief when he was a boy, and
had turned out on the whole so successfully, that
he was not alarmed by the dissipation of boys ;
'twas dangerous water, but, he thought, they would
soon touch bottom, and then swim to the top.
This is bold practice, and there are many failures
to a good escape. Yet one would say, that a
good understanding would suffice as well as moral
sensibility to keep one erect ; the gratifications of
the passions are so quickly seen to be damaging,
and, — what men like least, — seriously lowering
them in social rank. Then all talent sinks with
" Croyez moi, Verreur auasi a son mSrite^^' said
Voltaire. We see those who surmount, by dint of
some egotism or infatuation, obstacles from which
the prudent recoil. The right partisan is a heady
narrow man, who, because he does not see many
things, sees some one thing with heat and exaggera-
tion, and, if he falls among other narrow men, or
on objects which have a brief importance, as some
trade or politics of the hour, he prefers it to the
universe, and seems inspired, and a godsend to
those who wish to magnify the matter, and carry
a point. Better, certainly, if we could secure the
strength and fire which rude, passionate men bring
into society, quite clear of their vices. But who
CONSIDEEATIONS BY THE WAY. 227
dares draw out the linchpin from the wagon-
wheel ? 'Tis so manifest, that there is no moral
deformity, but is a good passion out of place ;
that there is no man who is not indebted to his
foibles ; that, according to the old oracle, " the
Furies are the bonds of men ; " that the poisons
are our principal medicines, which kill the dis-
ease, and save the life. In the high prophetic
phrase. He causes the wrath of man to praise him,
and twists and wrenches our evil to our good.
Shakspeare wrote,- —
"'Tis said, best men are moulded of their faults;"
and great educators and lawgivers, and especially
generals, and leaders of colonies, mainly rely on
this stuflP, and esteem men of irregular and pas-
sional force the best timber. A man of sense and
energy, the late head of the Farm School in Boston
harbor, said to me, " I want none of your good
boys, — give me the bad ones." And this is the
reason, I suppose, why, as soon as the children are
good, the mothers are scared, and think they are
going to die. Mirabeau said, " There are none but
men of strong passions capable of going to great-
ness ; none but such capable of meriting the public
gratitude." Passion, though a bad regulator, is a
powerful spring. Any absorbing passion has the
effect to deliver from the little coils and cares of
every day : 'tis the heat which sets our human
228 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
atoms spinning, overcomes the friction of crossing
thresholds, and first addresses in society, and gives
■QS a good start and speed, easy to continue, when
once it is begun. In short, there is no man who
is not at some time indebted to his vices, as no
plant that is not fed from manures. We only
insist that the man meliorate, and that the plant
grow upward, and convert the base into the better
The wise workman will not regret the poverty or
the solitude which brought out his working talents.
The youth is charmed with the fine air and accom-
plishments of the children of fortune. But all great
men come out of the middle classes. 'Tis better
for the head ; 'tis better for the heart. Marcus
Antoninus says, that Fronto told him, " that the so-
called high-bom are for the most part heartless ; "
whilst nothing is so indicative of deepest culture as
a tender consideration of the ignorant. Charles
James Fox said of England, "The~ history of this
country proves, that we are not to expect from men
in affluent circumstances the vigilance, energy, and
exertion without which the House of Commons
would lose its greatest force and weight. Human
nature is prone to indulgence, and the most merito-
rious public services have always been performed
by persons in a condition of life removed from opu-
lence." And yet what we ask daily, is to be con-
ventional. Supply, most kind gods ! this defect in
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 229
mj address, in my form, in my fortunes, which puts
me a little out of the ring : supply it, and let me be
like the rest whom I admire, and on good terms
with them. But the wise gods say. No, we have
better things for thee. By humiliations, by defeats,
by loss of sympathy, by gulfs of disparity, learn a
wider truth and humanity than that of a fine gen-
tleman. A Fifth- A venue landlord, a West-End
householder, is not the highest style of man : and,
though good hearts and sound minds are of no con-
dition, yet he who is to be wise for many, must not
be protected. He must know the huts where poor
men lie, and the chores which poor men do. The
first-class minds, ^Esop, Socrates, Cervantes, Shak-
speare, Franklin, had the poor man's feeling and
mortification. A rich man was' never insulted in
his life : but this man must be stung. A rich man
was never in danger from cold, or hunger, or war,
or ruffians, and you can see he was not, from the
moderation of his ideas. 'Tis a fatal disadvantage
to be cockered, and to eat too much cake. What
tests of manhood could he stand ? Take him out of
his protections. He is a good book-keeper; or he is
a shrewd adviser in the insurance ofiice : perhaps
lie could pass a college examination, and take his
degrees : perhaps he can give wise counsel in a
court of law. Now plant him down among far-
mers, firemen, Indians, and emigrants. Set a dog
on him : set a highwayman on him : try him with
230 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
a course of mobs : send him to Kansas, to Pike's
Peak, to Oregon : and, if he have true fi\culty,
this may be the element he wants, and he will come
out of it with broader wisdom and manly power.
iEsop, Saadi, Cervantes, Regnard, have been taken
by corsairs, left for dead, sold for slaves, and know
the realities of human life.
Bad times have a scientific value. These are
occasions a good learner would not miss. As we
go gladly to Faneuil Hall, to be played upon by the
stormy winds and strong fingers of enraged patriot-
ism, so is a fanatical persecution, civil war, na-
tional bankruptcy, or revolution, more rich in the
central tones than languid years of prosperity.
What had been, ever since our memory, solid
continent, yawns apart, and discloses its compo-
sition and genesis. We learn geology the morning
after the earthquake, on ghastly diagrams of cloven
mountains, upheaved plains, and the dry bed of the
In our life and culture, everything is worked
up, and comes in use, — passion, war, revolt, bank-
ruptcy, and not less, folly and blunders, insult, en-
nui, and bad company. Nature is a rag-merchant,
who works up every shred aud ort and end into
new creations ; like a good chemist, whom I found,
the other day, in his laboratory, converting his old
shirts into pure white sugar. Life is a boundless
privilege, and when you pay for your ticket, and
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 231
get into the car, you have no guess what good com-
pany you shall find there. You buy much that is
not rendered in the bill. Men achieve a certain
greatness unawares, when working to another aim.
If now in this connection of discourse, we should
venture on laying down the first obvious rules of
life, I will not here repeat the first rule of economy,
already propounded once and again, that every
man shall maintain himself, — but I will say, get
health. No labor, pains, "temperance, poverty, nor
exercise, that can gain it, must be grudged. For
sickness is a cannibal which eats up all the life
and youth it can lay hold of, and absorbs, its own
sons and daughters. I figure it as a pale, wailing,
distracted phantom, absolutely selfish, heedless of
what is good and great, attentive to its sensa-
tions, losing its soul, and afflicting other souls with
meanness and mopings, and with ministration to
its voracity of trifles. Dr. Johnson said severely,
" Every man is a rascal as soon as he is sick."
Drop the cant, and treat it sanely. In dealing
with the drunken, we do not affe,ct to be drunk.
We must treat the sick with the same firmness,
giving them, of course, every aid, — but withhold-
ing ourselves. I once asked a clergyman in a
retired town, who were his companions ? what
men of ability he saw ? he replied, that he spent
his time with the sick and the dying. I said, he
seemed to me to need quite other company, and all
232 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
the more that he had this : for if people were sick
and dying to any purpose, we would leave all and
go to them, but, as far as I had observed, they were
as frivolous as the rest, and sometimes much more
frivolous. Let us engage our companions not to
spare us. I knew a wise woman who said to her
friends, " When I am old, rule me." And the
best part of health is fine disposition. It is more
essential than talent, even in the works of tal-
ent. Nothing will sup]!)ly the want of sunshine
to peaches, and, to make knowledge valuable, you
must have the cheerfulness of wisdom. Whenever
you are sincerely pleased, you are nourished. The
joy of the spirit indicates its strength. All healthy
things are sweet-tempered. Genius works in sport,
and goodness smiles to the last ; and, for the rea-
son, that whoever sees the law which distributes
things, does not despond, but is animated to great
desires and endeavors. He who desponds betrays
that he has not seen it.
'Tis a Dutch proverb, that "paint costs nothing,'*
such are its preserving qualities in damp climates.
Well, sunshine costs less, yet is finer pigment. And
so of cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is
spent, the more of it remains. The latent heat of
an ounce of wood or stone is inexhaustible. You
may rub the same chip of pine to the point of
kindling, a hundred times ; and the power of
happiness of any soul is not to be computed or
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 233
drained. It is observed that a depression of spirits
develops the germs of a plague in individuals and
It is an old commendation of right behavior,
" Aliis Icetus, sapiens sibi,^^ which our English prov-
erb translates, " Be merry and wise." I know how
easy it is to men of the world to look grave and
sneer at your sanguine youth, and its glittering
dreams. But I find the gayest castles in the air that
were ever piled, far better for comfort and for use,
than the dungeons in the air that are daily dug and
caverned out by grumbling, discontented people.
I know those miserable fellows, and I hate them,
who see a black star always riding through the
light and colored clouds in the sky overhead :
waves of light pass over and hide it for a moment,
but the black star keeps fast in the zenith. But
power dwells with cheerfulness ; hope puts us in a
working mood, whilst despair is no muse, and un-
tunes the active powers. A man should make life
and Nature happier to us, or he had better never
been bom. When the political economist reckons
up the unproductive classes, he should put at the
head this class of pitiers of themselves, cravers of
sympathy, bewailing imaginary disasters. An old
French verse runs, in my translation : —
Some of your griefs you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived;
But what torments of pain you endured
From evils that never arrived!
234 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
There are three wants which never can be satis-
fied : that of the rich, who wants something more ;
that of the sick, who wants something different ;
and that of the traveller, who says, ' Anywhere but
here,' The Turkish cadi said to Layard, " After
the fashion of thy people, thou hast wandered from
one place to another, until thou art happy and con-
tent in none." My countrymen are not less infat-
uated with the rococo toy of Italy. All America
seems on the point of embarking for Europe. But
we shall not always traverse seas and lands with
light purposes, and for pleasure, as we say. One
day we shall cast out the passion for Europe, by the
passion for America. Culture will give gravity and
domestic rest to those who now travel only as not
knowing how else to spend money. Already, who
provoke pity like that excellent family party just
arriving in their well-appointed carriage, as far from
home and any honest end as ever ? Each nation
has asked successively, ' What are they here for ? '
until at last the party are shamefaced, and antici-
pate the question at the gates of each town.
Genial manners are good, and power of accom-
modation to any circumstance, but the high prize
of life, the crowning fortune of a man is to be born
with a bias to some pursuit, which finds him in em-
ployment and happiness, — whether it be to make
baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statutes, or
songs. I doubt not this was the meaning of Soc-
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 235
rates, when he pronounced artists the only truly
wise, as being actually, not apparently so.
In childliood, we fancied ourselves walled in by
the horizon, as by a glass bell, and doubted not,
by distant travel, we should reach the baths of the
descending sun and stars. On experiment, the
horizon flies before us, and leaves us on an end-
less common, sheltered by no glass bell. Yet 'tis
strange how tenaciously we cling to that bell-astron-
omy, of a protecting domestic horizon. I find the
same illusion in the search after happiness, which I
observe, every summer, recommenced in this neigh-
borhood, soon after the pairing of the birds. The
young people do not like the town, do not like the
sea-shore, they will go inland ; find a dear cottage
deep in the mountains, secret as their hearts. They
set forth on their travels in search of a home : they
reach Berkshire ; they reach Vermont ; they look
at the farms ; — good farms, high mountain-sides :
but where is the seclusion ? The farm is near this ;
'tis near that ; they have got far from Boston, but
'tis near Albany, or near Burlington, or near Mon-
treal. They explore a farm, but the house is small,
old, thin ; discontented people lived there, and are
gone : — there's too much sky, too much out-doors ;
too public. The youth aches for solitude. When
he comes to the house, he passes through the house.
That does not make the deep recess he sought.
' Ah ! now, I perceive,' he says, ' it must be deep
236 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
with persons ; friends only can give depth.' Yes,
but there is a great dearth, this year, of friends ;
hard to find, and hard to have when found : they
are just going away : they too are in the whirl of
the flitting world, and have engagements and neces-
sities. They are just starting for Wisconsin ; havt
letters from Bremen : — see you again, soon. Slow,
slow to learn the lesson, that there is but one depth,
but one interior, and that is — his purpose. When
joy or calamity or genius shall show him it, then
woods, then farms, then city shopmen and cab-
drivers, indifferently with prophet or friend, will
mirror back to him its unfathomable heaven, its
The uses of travel are occasional, and short ; but
the best fniit it finds, when it finds it, is conversa-
tion ; and this is a main function of life. What a
difference in the hospitality of minds I Inestimable
is he to whom we can say what we cannot say to
ourselves. Others are involuntarily hurtful to us,
and bereave us of the power of thought, impound
and imprison us. As, when there is sympathy,
there needs but one wise man in a company, and
all are wise, — so, a blockhead makes a blockhead
of his companion. Wonderful power to benumb
possesses this brother. When he comes into the
office or public room, the society dissolves ; one
after another slips out, and the apartment is at his
disposal. What is incurable but a frivolous habit ?
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 237
A fly is as untamable as a hyena. Yet folly in
the sense of fan, fooling, or dawdling can easily
be borne ; as Talleyrand said, " I find nonsense
singularly refreshing ; " but a virulent, aggressive
fool taints the reason of a household. I have seen
a whole family of quiet, sensible people unhinged
and beside themselves, victims of such a rogue.
For the steady wrongheadedness of one perverse
person irritates the best : since we must withstand
absurdity. But resistance only exasperates the ac-
rid fool, who believes that Nature and gravitation
are quite wrong, and he only is right. Hence all
the dozen inmates are soon perverted, with what-
ever virtues and industries they have, into contra-
dictors, accusers, explainers, and repairers of this
one malefactor ; like a boat about to be overset, or
a carriage run away with, — not only the foolish
pilot or driver, but everybody on board is forced to
assume strange and ridiculous attitudes, to balance
the vehicle and prevent the upsetting. For remedy,
whilst the case is yet mild, I recommend phlegm
and truth : let all the truth that is spoken or done
be at the zero of indifferency, or truth itself will be
folly. But, when the case is seated and malignant,
the only safety is in amputation ; as seamen say,
you shall cut and run. How to live with unfit
companions ? — for, with such, life is for the most
part spent : and experience teaches little better than
bur earhest instinct of self-defence, namely, not to
238 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
engage, not to mix yourself in any manner with
them ; but let their madness spend itself unopposed ;
— you are you, and I am I.
Conversation is an art in which a man has all
mankind for his competitors, for it is that which all
are practising every day while they live. Our habit
of thought, — take men as they rise, — is not satis-
fying ; in the common experience, I fear, it is poor
and squalid. The success which will content them,
is, a bargain, a lucrative employment, an advan-
tage gained over a competitor, a marriage, a patri-
mony, a legacy, and the like. With these objects,
their conversation deals with surfaces : politics,
trade, personal defects, exaggerated bad news, and
the rain. This is forlorn, and they feel sore and
sensitive. Now, if one comes who can illuminate
this dark house with thoughts, show them their
native riches, what gifts they have, how indispen-
sable each is, what magical powers over nature
and men ; what access to poetry, religion, and
the powers which constitute character ; he wakes
in them the feeling of worth, his suorgestions re-
quire new ways of Kving, new books, new men,
new arts and sciences, — then we come out of our
egg-shell existence into the great dome, and see
the zenith over and the nadir under us. Instead
of the tanks and buckets of knowledge to which
we are daily confined, we come down to the shore
of the sea, and dip our hands in its miraculous
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 239
waves. 'TIs wonderfdl the effect on the company.
They are not the men they were. They have
all been to California, and all have come back
millionnaires. There is no book and no pleasure
in life comparable to it. Ask what is best in our
experience, and we shall say, a few pieces of plain-
dealing with wise people. Our conversation once
and again has apprised us that we belong to better
circles than we have yet beheld ; that a mental
power invites us, whose generalizations are more
worth for joy and for effect than anything that is
now called philosophy or literature. In excited
conversation, we have glimpses of the Universe,
hints of power native to the soul, far-darting lights
and shadows of an Andes landscape, such as we can
hardly attain in lone meditation. Here are oracles
sometimes profusely given, to which the memory
goes back in barren hours.
Add the consent of will and temperament, and
there exists the covenant of friendship. Our chief
want in life, is, somebody who shall make us do
what we can. This is the service of a friend.
With him we are easily great. There is a sublime
attraction in him to whatever virtue is in us. How
he flings wide the doors of existence ! What ques-
tions we ask of him ! what an understanding we
have I how few words are needed ! It is the only
real society. An Eastern poet, Ali Ben Abu Ta-
leb, writes with sad truth, —
240 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
" He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,
And he who has one enemy shall meet him everywhere."
But few writers have said anytliing better to tliis
point than Hafiz, who indicates this relation as the
test of mental health : " Thou learnest no secret
until thou knowest friendship, since to the unsound
no heavenly knowledge enters." Neither is life
long enough for friendship. That is a serious and
majestic affair, like a royal presence, or a religion,
and not a postilion's dinner to be eaten on the run.
There is a pudency about friendship, as about love,
and though fine souls never lose sight of it, yet they
do not name it. With the first class of men our
friendship or good understanding goes quite behind
all accidents of estrangement, of condition, of repu-
tation. And yet we do not provide for the greatest
good of life. We take care of our health ; we lay
up money ; we make our roof tight, and our cloth-
ing sufficient ; but who provides wisely that he shall
not be wanting in the best property of all, — friends?
We know that all our training is to fit us for this,
and we do not take the step towards it. How long
shall we sit and wait for these benefactors ?
It makes no difference, in looking back five years,
how you have been dieted or dressed ; whether you
have been lodged on the first floor or the attic ;
whether you have had gardens and baths, good cat-
tle and horses, have been, carried in a neat equipage,
or in a ridiculous truck : these things are forgot-
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 241
ten SO quickly, and leave no effect. But it counts
much whether we have had good companions, in
that time ; — almost as much as what we have
been doing. And see the overpowering impor-
tance of neighborhood in all association. As it is
marriage, fit or unfit, that makes our home, so it
is who lives near us of equal social degree, — a few
people at convenient distance, no matter how bad
company, — these, and these only, shall be your
life's companions : and all those who are native,
congenial, and by many an oath of the heart, sacra-
mented to you, are gradually and totally lost. You
cannot deal systematically with this fine element
of society, and one may take a good deal of pains
to bring people together, and to organize clubs and
debating societies, and yet no result come of it.
But it is certain that there is a great deal of good
in us that does not know itself, and that a habit of
union and competition brings people up and keeps
them up to their highest point ; that life would be
twice or ten times life, if spent with wise and fruit-
ful companions. The obvious inference is, a little
useful deliberation and preconcert, when one goes
to buy house and land.
But we live with people on other platfoims ; we
live with dependents, not only with the young
whom we are to teach all we know, and clothe
with the advantages we have earned, but also with
those who serve us directly, and for money. Yet
24S CONDUCT OF LIFE.
the old rules hold good. Let not the tie be mer-
cenary, though the service is measured by money.
Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not
make life hard to any. This point is acquiring new
importance in American social life. Our domestic
service is usually a foolish fracas of unreasonable
demand on one side, and shirking on the other. A
man of wit was asked, in the train, what was his
errand in the city ? He replied, " I have been sent
to procure an angel to do cooking." A lady com-
plained to me, that, of her two maidens, one was
absent-minded, and the other was absent-bodied.
And the evil increases from the ignorance and hos-
tihty of every ship-load of the immigrant population
swarming into houses and farms. Few people dis-
cern that it rests with the master or the mistress
what service comes from the man or the maid ; that
this identical hussy was a tutelar spirit in one
house, and a haridan in the other. All sensible
people are selfish,, and nature is tugging at every
contract to make the terms of it fair. If you are
proposing only your own, the other party must deal
a little hardly by you. If you deal generously, the
other, though selfish and unjust, will make an ex-
ception in your favor, and deal truly with you.
When I asked an iron-master about the slag and
cinder in railroad iron, — " O," he said, " there's
always good iron to be had: if there's cinder in
the iron, 'tis because there was cmder in the pay."
CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY. 243
But why multiply these topics, and their illus-
trations, which are endless ? Life brings to each
his task, and, whatever art you select, algebra,
planting, architecture, poems, commerce, politics, —
all are attainable, even to the miraculous triumphs,
on the same terms, of selecting that for which you
are apt ; — begin at the beginning, proceed in order,
step by step. 'Tis as easy to twist iron anchors,
and braid cannons, as to braid straw, to boil granite
as to boil water, if you take all the steps in order.
Wherever there is failure, there is some giddiness,
some superstition about luck, some step omitted,
which Nature never pardons. The happy con-
ditions of life may be had on the same terms.
Their attraction for you is the pledge that they
are within your reach. Our prayers are prophets.
There must be fidelity, and there must be ad-
herence. How respectable the life that clings to
its objects ! Youthful aspirations are fine things,
your theories and plans of life are fair and com-
mendable : — but will you stick ? Not one, I fear,
in that Common full of people, or, in a thousand, but
one : and, when you tax them with treachery, and
remind them of their high resolutions, they have for-
gotten that they made a vow. The individuals are
fugitive, and in the act of becoming something else,
and irresponsible. The race is great, the ideal fair,
but the men whiffling and unsure. The hero is he
who is immovably centred. The main difference
between people seems to be, that one man can
244 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
come under obligations on which you can relv, —
is obligable ; and another is not. As he has not a
law within liim, there's nothing to tie him to.
'Tis inevitable to name particulars of virtue, and
of condition, and to exaggerate them. But all rests
at last on that integrity which dwarfs talent, and
can spare it. Sanity consists in not being sub-
dued by your means. Fancy prices are paid for
position, and for the culture of talent, but to the
grand interests, superficial success is of no account.
The man, — it is his attitude, — not feats, but
forces, — not on set days and public occasions, but,
at all hours, and in repose alike as in energy, still
formidable, and not to be disposed of. The popu-
lace says, with Home Tooke, " If you would be
powerful, pretend to be powei-fiil." I prefer to say,
with the old prophet, " Seekest thou great things ?
seek them not : " — or, what was said of a Spanish
prince, " The more you took from him, the greater
he looked." Plus on lai ote^ plus il est grand.
The secret of culture is to learn, that a few great
points steadily reappear, alike in the poverty of the
obscurest farm, and in the miscellany of metro-
politan life, and that these few are alone to be re-
garded, — the escape from all false ties ; courage
to be what we are ; and love of what is simple
and beautiful ; independence, and cheerful relation,
these are the essentials, — these, and the wish to
serve, — to add somewhat to the well-being of
Was never form and never face
So sweet to Setd as only grace
Which did not slumber like a stone
But hovered gleaming and was gone.
Beauty chased he everywhere,
In Same, in storm, in clouds of air.
He smote the lake to feed his eye
With the beryl beam of the broken wave;
He flung in pebbles well to hear
The moment's music which they gave.
Oft pealed for him a lofty tone
From nodding pole and belting zone.
He heard a voice none else could hear
From centred and from errant sphere.
The quaking earth did quake in rhyme,
Seas ebbed and flowed in epic chime.
In dens of passion, and pits of wo,
He saw strong Eros strugghng through,
To sun the dark and solve the curse,
And beam to the bounds of the universe.
While thus to love he gave his days
In loyal worship, scorning praise.
How spread their lures for him, in vain,
Thieving Ambition and paltering Gain !
He thought it happier to be dead.
To die for Beauty, than live for bread.
The spiral tendency of vegetation infects edu-
cation also. Our books approach very slowly the
things we most wdsh to know. What a parade we
make of our science, and how far off, and at arm's
length, it is from its objects ! Our botany is all
names, not powers : poets and romancers talk of
herbs of grace and healing ; but what does the
botanist know of the virtues of his weeds ? The
geologist lays bare the strata, and can tell them all
on his fingers : but does he know what effect passes
into the man who builds his house in them ? w^hat
effect on the race that inhabits a granite shelf?
what on the inhabitants of marl and of alluvium?
We should go to the ornithologist with a new
feeling, if he could teach us what the social birds
say, when they sit in the autumn council, talk-
ing together in the trees. The want of sympathy
makes his record a dull dictionary. His result is
a dead bird. The bird is not in its ounces and
inches, but in its relations to Nature ; and the skin
or skeleton you show me, is no more a heron, than
a heap of ashes or a bottle of gases into which his
248 CONDUCT OF LIFE
body has been reduced, is Dante or Washington.
The naturahst is led from the road by tlie whole
distance of his fancied advance. The boy had
juster views when he gazed at the shells on the
beach, or the flowers in the meadow, unable to call
them by their names, than the man in the pride of
his nomenclature. Astrology interested us, for it
tied man to the system. Instead of an isolated beg-
gar, the farthest star felt him, and he felt the star.
However rash and however falsified by pretenders
and traders in it, the hint was true and divine, the
soul's avowal of its large relations, and, that cli-
mate, century, remote natures, as well as near, are
part of its biography. Chemistry takes to pieces,
but it does not construct. Alchemy which sought
to transmute one element into another, to prolong
life, to arm with power, — that was in the right
direction. All our science lacks a human side.
The tenant is more than the house. Bugs and
stamens and spores, on which we lavish so many
years, are not finalities, and man, when his powers
unfold in order, will take Nature along with him,
and emit light into all her recesses. The human
heart concerns us more than the poring into micro-
scopes, and is larger than can be measured by the
pompous figures of the astronomer.
We are just so frivolous and skeptical. Men
hold themselves cheap and vile : and yet a man is
a fagot of thunderbolts. All the elements pour
through his system : he is the flood of the flood,
and fire of the fire ; he feels the antipodes and the
pole, as drops of his blood : they are the extension
of his personality. His duties are measured by that
instrument he is ; and a right and perfect man
would be felt to the centre of the Copernican sys-
tem. 'Tis curious that we only believe as deep as
we live. We do not think heroes can exert any
more awfxd power than that surface-play which
amuses us. A deep man believes in miracles,
waits for them, believes in magic, believes that
the orator will decompose his adversary ; believes
that the evil eye can wither, that the heart's bless-
ing can heal ; that love can exalt talent ; can
overcome all odds. From a great heart secret
magnetisms flow incessantly to draw great events.
But we prize very humble utilities, a prudent hus-
band, a good son^ a voter, a citizen, and deprecate
any romance of character ; and perhaps reckon only
his money value, — his intellect, his affection, as a
sort of bill of exchange, easily convertible into fine
chambers, pictures, music, and wine.
The motive of science was the extension of man,
on all sides, into Nature, till his hands should touch
the stars, his eyes see through the earth, his ears
understand the language of beast and bird, and
the sense of the wind ; and, through his sympathy,
heaven and earth should talk with him. But that
is not our science. These geologies, chemistries,
250 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
astronomies, seem to make wise, but tliey leave us
where they found us. The invention is of use to
the inventor, of questionable help to any other.
The formulas of science are like the papers in your
pocket-book, of no value to any but the owner.
Science in England, in America, is jealous of
theory, hates the name of love and moral pur-
pose. There's a revenge for this inhumanity.
What manner of man does science make ? The
boy is not attracted. He says, I do not wish to be
such a kind of man as my professor is. The col-
lector has dried all the plants in his herbal, but he
has lost weight and humor. He has got all snakes
and lizards in his phials, but science has done for
him also, and has put the man into a bottle. Our
reliance on the physician is a kind of despair of
ourselves. The clergy have bronchitis, which does
not seem a certificate of spiritual health. Macready
thought it came of the falsetto of their voicing.
An Indian prince, Tisso, one day riding in the for-
est, saw a herd of elk sporting. " See how happy,"
he said, " these browsing elks are ! Why should
not priests, lodged and fed comfortably in the tem
pies, also amuse themselves ? " Returning home,
he imparted this reflection to the king. The king,
on the next day, conferred the sovereignty on him,
saying, " Prince, administer this empire for seven
days : at the termination of that period, I shall put
thee to death.'' At the end of the seventh day.
BEAUTY. . 251
the king Inquired, " From what cause hast thou be-
come so emaciated ? " He answered, " From the
horror of death." The monarch rejoined : " Live,
my child, and be wise. Thou hast ceased to take
recreation, saying to thyself, in seven days I shall
be put to death. These priests in the temple
incessantly meditate on death ; how can they en-
ter into healthful diversions ? " But the men of
science or the doctors or the clergy are not victims
of their pursuits, more than others. The miller, the
lawyer, and the merchant, dedicate themselves to
their own details, and do not come out men of more
force. Have they divination, grand aims, hospi-
tality of soul, and the equality to any event, which
we demand in man, or only the reactions of the
mill, of the wares, of the chicane ?
No object really interests us but man, and in
man only his superiorities ; and, though we are
aware of a perfect law in Nature, it has fascination
for us only through its relation to him, or, as it
is rooted in the mind. At the birth of Winckel-
mann, more than a hundred years ago, side by side
with this arid, departmental, post mortem science,
rose an enthusiasm in the study of Beauty ; and
perhaps some sparks from it may yet light a con-
flagration in the other. Knowledge of men, knowl-
edge of manners, the power of form, and our
sensibility to personal influence, never go out of
fashion. These are facts of a science which we
252 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
study without book, whose teachers and subjects
are always near us.
So inveterate is our habit of criticism, that much
of our knowledge in this direction belongs to' the
chapter of pathology. The crowd in the street
oftener furnishes degradations than angels or re-
deemers : but they all prove the transparency.
Every spirit makes its house ; and we can give a
shrewd guess from the house to the inhabitant.
But not less does Nature furnish us with every sign
of grace and goodness. The delicious faces of chil-
dren, the beauty of school-girls, " the sweet serious-
ness of sixteen," the lofty air of well-born, well-
bred boys, the passionate histories in the looks and
manners of youth and early manhood, and the va-
ried power in all that well-known company that
escort us through life, — we know how these forms
thrill, paralyze, provoke, inspire, and enlarge us.
Beauty is the form under which the intellect pre-
fers to study the world. All privilege is that of
beauty ; for there are many beauties ; as, of general
nature, of the human face, and form, of manners,
of brain, or method, moral beauty, or beauty of
The ancients believed that a genius or demon
took possession at birth of each mortal, to guide
him ; that these genii were sometimes seen as a
flame of fire partly immersed in the bodies which
they governed ; — on an evil man, resting on his
head ; in a good man, mixed with his substance.
They thought the same genius, at the death of its
ward, entered a new-born child, and they pre-
tended to guess the pilot, by the sailing of the ship.
We recognize obscurely the same fact, though we
give it our own names. We say, that every man
is entitled to be valued by his best moment. We
measure our friends so. We know, they have
intervals of folly, whereof we take no heed, but
wait the reappearirigs of the genius, which are
sure and beautiful. On the other side, everybody
knows people who appear beridden, and who, with
all degrees of ability, never impress us with the
air of free agency. They know it too, and peep
with their eyes to see if you detect their sad
plight. We fancy, could we pronounce the solv-
ing word, and disenchant them, the cloud would
roll up, the little rider would be discovered and un-
seated, and they would regain their freedom. The
remedy seems never to be far oflP, since the first
step into thought lifts this mountain of necessity.
Thought is the pent air-ball which can rive the
planet, and the beauty which certain objects have
for him, is the friendly fire which expands the
thought, and acquaints the prisoner that liberty
and power await him.
The question of Beauty takes us out of surfaces,
to thinking of the foundations of things. Goethe
said, " The beautiful is a manifestation of secret
254 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
laws of Nature, which, but for this appearance, had
been forever concealed fi'oin us." And the work-
ing of this deep instinct makes all the excitement
— much of it superficial and absurd enough —
about works of art, which leads armies of vain
travellers every year to Italy, Greece, and Egypt.
Every man values every acquisition he makes
in the science of beauty, above his possessions.
The most useful man in the most useful world, so
long as only commodity was served, would remain
unsatisfied. But, as fast as he sees beauty, life
acquires a very high value.
I am warned by the ill fate of many philpsophers
not to attempt a definition of Beauty. I will rather
enumerate a few of its qualities. We ascribe beauty
to that which is simple ; which has no superfluous
parts ; which exactly answers its end ; which stands
related to all things ; which is the mean of many
extremes. It is the most enduring quality, and the
most ascending quality. We say, love is blind, and
the figure of Cupid is drawn with a bandage round
his eyes. Blind: — yes, because he does not see
what he does not like ; but the sharpest-sighted
hunter in the universe is Love, for finding what he
seeks, and only that ; and the mythologists tell us,
that Vulcan was painted lame, and Cupid blind, to
call attention to the fact, that one was all limbs,
and the other, all eyes. In the true mythology,
Love is an immortal child, and Beauty leads him as
a guide: nor can we express a deeper sense than
when we say, Beauty is the pilot of the young
Beyond their sensuous delight, the forms and
colors of Nature have a new charm for us in our
perception, that not one ornament was added for
ornament, but is a sign of some better health, or
more excellent action. Elegance of form in bird or
beast, or in the human figure, marks some excel-
lence of structure : or beauty is only an invitation
from what belongs to us. 'Tis a law of botany,
that in plants, the same virtues follow the same
forms. It is a rule of largest application, true in
a plant, true in a loaf of bread, that in the con-
struction of any fabric or organism, any real in-
crease of fitness to its end, is an increase of
The lesson taught by the study of Greek and
of Gothic art, of antique and of Pre-Raphaelite
painting, was worth all the- research, — namely,
that all beauty must be organic ; that outside em-
bellishment is deformity. It is the soundness of
the bones that ultimates itself in a peach-bloom
complexion : health of constitution that makes the
sparkle and the power of the eye. 'Tis the adjust-
ment of the size and of the joining of the sockets
of the skeleton, that gives grace of outline and the
finer grace of movement. The cat and the deer
cannot move or sit inelegantly. The dancing-
256 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
master can never teach a badly built man to walk
well. The tint of the flower proceeds from its root,
and the lustres of the sea-shell begin with its exist-
ence. Hence our taste in building rejects paint,
and all shifts, and shows the original grain of
the wood : refuses pilasters and columns that sup-
port nothing, and allows the real supporters of
the house honestly to show themselves. Every
necessary or organic action pleases the beholder.
A man leading a horse to water, a farmer sowing
seed, the labors of haymakers in the field, the car-
penter building a ship, the smith at his forge, or,
whatever useful labor, is becoming to the wise eye.
But if it is done to be seen, it is mean. How
beautiful are ships on the sea ! but ships in the
theatre, — or ships kept for picturesque effect on
Virginia Water, by George IV., and men hired to
stand in fitting costumes at a penny an hour ! —
What a difference in effect between a battalion
of troops marching to action, and one of our inde-
pendent companies on a holiday ! In the midst
of a military show, and a festal procession gay with
banners, I saw a boy seize an old tin pan that lay
rusting imder a wall, and poising it on the top of a
stick, he set it turning, and made it describe the
most elegant imaginable curves, and drew away
attention from the decorated procession by this
Another text from the mythologists. The
Greeks fabled that Venus was born of the foam
of the sea. Nothing interests us which is stark or
bounded, but only what streams with life, what is
in act or endeavor to reach somewhat beyond. The
pleasure a palace or a temple gives the eye, is, that
an order and method has been communicated to
stones, so that they speak and geometrize, become
tender or sublime with expression. Beauty is the
moment of transition, as if the form were just ready
to flow into other forms. Any fixedness, heap-
ing, or concentration on one feature, — a long nose,
a sharp chin, a hump-back, — is the reverse of the
flowing, and therefore deformed. Beautiful as is
the symmetry of any form, if the form can move,
we seek a more excellent symmetry. The inter-
ruption of equilibrium stimulates the eye to desire
the restoration of symmetry, and to watch the steps
through which it is attained. This is the charm
of running water, sea-waves, the flight of birds, and
the locomotion of animals. This is the theory of
dancing, to recover continually in changes the lost
equilibrium, not by abrupt and angular, but by
gradual and curving movements. I have been told
by persons of experience in matters of taste, that
the fashions follow a law of gradation, and are
never arbitrary. The new mode is always only a
step onward in the same direction as the last mode ;
and a cultivated eye is prepared for and predicts
the new fashion. This fact suggests the reason of
258 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
all mistakes and offence in our own modes. It is
necessary in music, when you strike a discord, to
let down the ear by an intermediate note or two
to the accord again : and many a good experiment,
bom of good sense, and destined to succeed, fails,
only because it is offensively sudden. I suppose, the
Parisian milliner who dresses the world from her
imperious boudoir will know how to reconcile the
Bloomer costume to the eye of mankind, and make
it triumphant over Punch himself, by interposing
the just gradations. I need not say, how wide the
same law ranges ; and how much it can be hoped
to effect. All that is a little harshly claimed by
progressive parties, may easily come to be conceded
without question, if this rule be observed. Thus
the circumstances may be easily imagined, in which
woman may speak, vote, argue causes, legislate, and
drive a coach, and all the most naturally in the
world, if only it come by degrees. To this stream-
ing or flowing belongs the beauty that all circu-
lar movement has ; as, the circulation of waters,
the circulation of the blood, the periodical mo-
tion of planets, the annual wave of vegetation,
the action and reaction of Nature : and, if we
follow it out, this demand in our thought for
an ever-onw^ard action, is the argument for the
One more text from the mythologists is to the
same purpose, — Beauty rides on a lion. Beauty
rests on necessities. The line of beauty is the
result of perfect economy. The cell of the bee is
built at that angle which gives the most strength
with the least wax ; the bone or the quill of the
bird gives the most alar strength, with the least
weight. "It is the purgation of superfluities," said
Michel Angelo. There is not a particle to spare
in natural structures. There is a compelling rea-
son in the uses of the plant, for every novelty
of color or form : and our art saves material, by
more skilful arrangement, and reaches beauty by
taking every superfluous ounce that can be spared
from a wall, and keeping all its strength in the
poetry of columns. In rhetoric, this art of omis-
sion is a chief secret of power, and, in general, it is
proof of high culture, to say the greatest matters in
the simplest way.
Veracity first of all, and forever. Rien de beau
que le vrai. In all design, art lies in making your
object prominent, but there is a prior art in choos-
ing objects that are prominent. The fine arts have
nothing casual, but spring from the instincts of the
nations that created them.
Beauty is the quality which makes to endure.
In a house that I know, I have noticed a block of
spermaceti lying about closets and mantel-pieces, for
twenty years together, simply because the tallow-
man gave it the form of a rabbit ; and, I suppose, it
may continue to be lugged about unchanged for a
260 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
century. Let an artist scrawl a few lines or figures
on the back of a letter, and that scrap of paper is
rescued from danger, is put in portfolio, is framed
and glazed, and, in proportion to the beauty of the
lines drawn, will be kept for centuries. Burns
writes a copy of verses, and sends them to a news-
paper, and the human race take charge of them
that they shall not perish.
As the flute is heard farther than the cart, see
how surely a beautiful form strikes the fancy of
men, and is copied and reproduced without end.
How many copies are there of the Belvedere
Apollo, the Venus, the Psyche, the Warwick Vase,
the Parthenon, and the Temple of Vesta ? These
are objects of tenderness to all. In our cities, an
ugly building is soon removed, and is never re-
peated, but any beautiful building is copied and
improved upon, so that all masons and carpenters
work to repeat and preserve the agreeable forms,
wliilst the ugly ones die out.
The felicities of design in art, or in works of
Nature, are shadows or forerunners of that beauty
which reaches its perfection in the human form.
All men are its lovers. Wherever it goes, it creates
joy and hilarity, and everything is permitted to it.
It reaches its height in woman. " To Eve," say
the Mahometans, " God gave two thirds of all
beauty." A beautiful woman is a practical poet,
taming her savage mate, planting tenderness, hope,
and eloquence, in all whom she approaches. Some
favors of condition must go with it, since a certain
serenity is essential, but we love its reproofe and
superiorities. Nature wishes that woman should
attract man, yet she often cunningly moulds into
her face a little sarcasm, which seems to say, ' Yes,
I am willing to attract, but to attract a little better
kind of a man than any I yet behold.' French
memoires of the fifteenth century celebrate the
name of Pauline de Viguiere, a virtuous and ac-
complished maiden, who so fired the enthusiasm of
her contemporaries, by her enchanting form, that
the citizens of her native city of Toulouse obtained
the aid of the civil authorities to compel her to ap-
pear publicly on the balcony at least twice a week,
and, as often as she showed herself, the crowd was
•dangerous to life. Not less, in England, in the last
century, was the fame of the Gunnings, of whom,
Elizabeth married the Duke of Hamilton ; and
Maria, the Earl of Coventry. Walpole says, " the
concourse was so great, when tlie Duchess of Ham-
ilton was presented at court, on Friday, that even
the noble crowd in the drawing-room clambered on
chairs and tables to look at her. There are mobs
at their doors to see them get into their chairs, and
people go early to get places at the theatres, when
it is known they will be there." " Such crowds," he
adds, elsewhere, " flock to see the Duchess of Ham-
ilton, that seven hundred people sat up all night, in
262 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
and about an inn, in Yorkshire, to see her get into
her post-chaise next morning."
But why need we console ourselves with the
fames of Helen of Argos, or Corinna, or Pauline of
Toulouse, or the Duchess of Hamilton ? We all
know this magic very well, or can divine it. It
does not hurt weak eyes to look into beautiful eyes
never so long. Women stand related to beautiful
Nature around us, and the enamored youth mixes
their form with moon and stars, with woods and
waters, and the pomp of summer. They heal us
of awkwardness by their words and looks. We ob-
serve their intellectual influence on the most serious
student. They refine and clear his mind ; teach
him to put a pleasing method into what is dry and
difficult. We talk to them, and wish to be listened
to ; we fear to fatigue them, and acquire a facility
of expression which passes from conversation into
habit of style.
That Beauty is the normal state, is shown by the
perpetual effort of Mature to attain it. Mirabeau
had an ugly face on a handsome ground ; and we
see faces every day which have a good type, but
have been marred in the casting : a proof that we
are all entitled to beauty, should have been beau-
tiful, if our ancestors had kept the laws, — as every
lily and every rose is well. But our bodies do not
fit us, but caricature and satirize us. Thus, short
legs, which constrain us to short, mincing steps, are
a kind of personal insult and contumely to the
owner ; and long stilts, again, put liim at perpetual
disadvantage, and force him to stoop to the general
level of mankind. Martial ridicules a gentleman
of his day whose countenance resembled the face
of a swimmer seen under water. Saadi describes
a schoolmaster " so ugly and crabbed, that a sight
of him would derange the ecstasies of the ortho-
dox." Faces are rarely true to any ideal type, but
are a record in sculpture of a thousand anecdotes
of whim and folly. Portrait painters say that most
faces and forms are irregular and unsymmetrical ;
have one eye blue, and one gray; the nose not
straight; and one shoulder higher than another; the
hair unequally distributed, etc. The man is phys-
ically as well as metaphysically a thing of shreds
and patches, borrowed unequally from good and
bad ancestors, and a misfit from the start.
A beautiful person, among the Greeks, was
thought to betray by this sign some secret favor
of the immortal gods : and we can pardon pride,
when a woman possesses such a figure, that wher-
ever she stands, or moves, or leaves a shadow on
the wall, or sits for a portrait to the artist, she
confers a favor on the world. And yet — it
is not beauty that inspires the deepest passion.
Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait.
Beauty, without expression, tires. Abb^ Menage
said of the President Le Bailleul, " that he was fit
264 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
for nothing but to sit for his portrait." A Greek
epigram intimates that the force of love is not
shown by the courting of beauty, but when the
like desire is inflamed for one who is ill-favored.
And petulant old gentlemen, who have chanced to
suffer some intolerable weariness from pretty people,
or who have seen cut flowers to some profusion, or
who see, after a world of pains have been success-
fully taken for the costume, how the least mistake
in sentiment takes all the beauty out of your
clothes, — affirm, that the secret of ugliness consists
not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.
We love any forms, however ugly, from which
great qualities shine. If command, eloquence, art,
or invention, exist in the most deformed person,
all the accidents that usually displease, please, and
raise esteem and wonder higher. The great orator
was an emaciated, insignificant person, but he was
all brain. Cardinal De Retz says of De Bouillon,
"With the physiognomy of an ox, he had the
perspicacity of an eagle." It was said of Hooke,
the friend of Newton, " he is the most, and prom-
ises the least, of any man in England." " Since
I am so ugly," said Du Guesclin, " it behooves that
I be bold." Sir Philip Sidney, the darhng of man-
kind, Ben Jonson tells us, " was no pleasant man in
countenance, his face being spoiled with pimples,
and of high blood, and long." Those who have
ruled human destinies, like planets, for thousands
of years, were not handsome men. If a man can
raise a small city to be a great kingdom, can make
bread cheap, can irrigate deserts, can join oceans by
canals, can subdue steam, can organize victory, can
lead the opinions of mankind, can enlarge knowl-
edge, 'tis no matter whether his nose is parallel to
his spine, as it ought to be, or whether he has
a nose at all ; whether his legs are straight, or
whether his legs are amputated ; his deformities
will come to be reckoned ornamental, and advan-
tageous on the whole. This is the triumph of
expression, degrading beauty, charming us with a
power so fine and friendly and intoxicating, that it
makes admired persons insipid, and the thought of
passing our lives with them insupportable. There
are faces so fluid with expression, so flushed and
rippled by the play of thought, that we can hardly
find what the mere features really are. When
the delicious beauty of lineaments loses its power,
it is because a more delicious beauty has appeared ;
that an interior and durable form has been disclosed.
Still, Beauty rides on her lion, as before. Still, " it
was for beauty that the world was made." The
lives of the Italian artists, who established a despot-
ism of genius amidst the dukes and kings and mobs
of their stormy epoch, prove how loyal men in all
times are to a finer brain, a finer method, than their
own. If a man can cut such a head on his stone
gate-post as shall draw and keep a crowd about it
266 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
all day, by its beauty, good nature, and inscrutable
meaning ; — if a man can build a plain cottage with
such symmetry, as to make all the fine palaces
look cheap and vulgar ; can take such advantage
of Nature, that all her powers serve him ; making
use of geometry, instead of expense ; tapping a
mountain for his water-jet ; causing the sun and
moon to seem only the decorations of his estate ;
this is still the legitimate dominion of beauty.
The radiance of the human form, though some-
times astonishing, is only a biu'st of beauty for a
few years or a few months, at the perfection of
youth, and in most, rapidly declines. But we re-
main lovers of it, only transferring our interest to
interior excellence. And it is not oi^y admirable
in singular and salient talents, but also in the world
But the sovereign attribute remains to be noted.
Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, hand-
some, but, until they speak to the imagination, not
yet beautiful. Tliis is the reason why beauty is
still escaping out of all analysis. It is not yet
possessed, it cannot be handled. Proclus says, "it
swims on the light of forms." It is properly not in
the form, but in the mind. It instantly deserts pos-
session, and flies to an object in the horizon. If I
could put my hand on the north star, would it be
as beautiful ? The sea is lovely, but when we bathe
in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water. For
the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at
the same time. Wordsworth rightly speaks of " a
light that nSver was on sea or land," meaning, that
it was supplied by the observer, and the Welsh
bard warns his countrywomen, that
— "half of their charms with Cadwallon shall die."
The new virtue which constitutes a thing beautiful,
is a certain cosmical quality, or, a power to suggest
relation to the whole world, and so lift the object
out of a pitifiil individuality. Every natural feat-
ure, — sea, sky, rainbow, flowers, musical tone, —
has in it somewhat which is not private, but uni-
versal, speaks of that central benefit which is the
soul of Nature, and thereby is beautiful. And, in
chosen men and women, I find somewhat in form,
speech, and manners, which is not of their person
and family, but of a humane, catholic, and spiritual
character, and we love them as the sky. They
have a largeness of suggestion, and their face and
manners carry a certain grandeur, like time and
The feat of the imagination is in showing the
convertibility of every thing into every other thing.
Facts which had never before left their stark com-
mon sense, suddenly figure as Eleusinian mysteries.
My boots and chair and candlestick are fairies in
disguise, meteors and constellations. All the facts
in Nature are nouns of the intellect, and make
2C8 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
the grammar of the eternal language. Every word
has a double, treble, or centuple use and meaning.
What ! has my stove and pepper-pot a false bottom I
I cry you mercy, good shoe-box ! I did not know
you were a jewel-case. Chaff and dust begin to
sparkle, and are clothed about with immortality.
And there is a joy in perceiving the representative
or symbolic character of a fact, which no bare fact
or event can ever give. There are no days in
life so memorable as those which vibrated to some
stroke of the imagination.
The poets are quite right in decking their mis-
tresses with the spoils of the landscape, flower-
gardens, gems, rainbows, flushes of morning, and
stars of night, since all beauty points at identity,
and whatsoever thing does not express to me the
sea and sky, day and night, is somewhat forbidden
and wrong. Into every beautiful object, there en-
ters somewhat immeasurable and divine, and just
as much into form bounded by outlines, like moun-
tains on the horizon, as into tones of music, or
depths of space. Polarized light showed the secret
architecture of bodies ; and when the second-Bight
of the mind is opened, now one color or form or
gesture, and now another, has a pungency, as if a
more interior ray had been emitted, disclosing its
deep holdings in the frame of things.
The laws of this translation we do not know, or
why one feature or gesture enchants, why one word
or syllable intoxicates, but the fact is familiar that
the fine touch of the eye, or a grace of manners, or
a phrase of poetry, plants wings at our shoulders ;
as if the Divinity, in his approaches, lifts away
mountains of obstruction, and deigns to draw a
truer line, which the mind knows and owns. This
is that haughty force of beauty, " vis superha
fDrmce^^ which the poets praise, — under calm
and precise outline, the immeasurable and divine :
Beauty hiding all wisdom and power in its calm
All high beauty has a moral element in it, and
I find the antique sculpture as ethical as Marcus
Antoninus : and the beauty ever in proportion to
the depth of thought. Gross and obscure natures,
however decorated, seem impure shambles ; but
character gives splendor to youth, and awe to
wrinkled skin and gray hairs. An adorer of truth
we cannot choose but obey, and the woman who
has shared with us the moral sentiment, — her locks
must appear to us sublime. Thus there is a climb-
ing scale of culture, from the first agreeable sensa-
tion which a sparkling gem or a scarlet stain affords
the eye, up through fair outlines and details of the
landscape, features of the human face and form,
signs and tokens of thought and character in man-
ners, up to the ineffable mysteries of the intellect.
Wherever we begin, thither our steps tend : an
ascent from the joy of a horse in his trappings, up
270 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
to the perception of Newton, that the glooe on
which we ride is only a larger apple falling from
a larger tree ; up to the perception of Plato, that
globe and universe are rude and early expressions
of an all-dissolving Unity, — the first stair on the
scale to the temple of the Mind.
Flow, flow the waves hated,
The waves of mutation :
No anchorage is.
Sleep is not, death is not;
Who seem to die live.
House you were born in,
Friends of your spring-time.
Old man and young maid.
Day's toil and its guerdon,
They are all vanishing,
Fleeing to fables.
Cannot be moored.
See the stars through them,
Through treacherous marbles.
Know, the stars yonder.
The stars everlasting.
Are fugitive also,
And emulate, vaulted,
The lambent heat-lightning,
And fire-fly's flight.
272 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
When thou dost return
On the wave's circulation,
Beholding tlie shimmer,
The wild dissipation,
And, out of endeavor
To change and to flow.
The gas become solid.
And phantoms and nothings
Return to be things,
And endless imbroglio
Is law and the world, —
Then first shalt thou know.
That in the wild turmoil.
Horsed on the Proteus,
Thou ridest to power,
And to endurance.
Some years ago, in company with an agreeable
party, I spent a long summer day in exploring
the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. We traversed,
through spacious galleries aflfording a solid masonry
foundation for the town and county overhead, the
six or eight black miles from the mouth of the cav-
ern to the innermost recess which tourists visit, — a
niche or grotto made of one seamless stalactite, and
called, I believe, Serena's Bower. I lost the light
of one day. I saw high domes, and bottomless pits;
heard the voice of unseen waterfalls ; paddled three
quarters of a mile in the deep Echo River, whose
waters are peopled with the blind fish ; crossed the
streams " Lethe " and " Styx ; " plied with music
and guns the echoes in these alarming galleries ;
saw every form of stalagmite and stalactite in the
sculptured and fretted chambers, — icicle, orange-
flower, acanthus, grapes, and snowball. We shot
Bengal lights into the vaults and groins of the
sparry cathedrals, and examined all the master-
pieces which the four combined engineers, water,
limestone, gravitation, and time, could make in the
274 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
The mysteries and sceneiy of the cave had the
same dignity that belongs to all natural objects,
and which shames the fine things to which we fop-
pishly compare them. I remarked, especially, the
mimetic habit, with which Nature, on new^ instru-
ipents, hums her old tunes, making night to mimic
day, and chemistry to ape vegetation. But I then
took notice, and still chiefly remember, that the
best thing which the cave had to offer was an illu-
sion. On arriving at what is called the " Star-
Chamber," our lamps were taken from us by the
guide, and extinguished or put aside, and, on look-
ing upwards, I saw or seemed to see the night
heaven thick with stars glimmering more or less
brightly over our heads, and even what seemed a
comet flaming among them. All the party were
touched with astonishment and pleasure. Our
musical friends sung with much feeling a pretty
song, " The stars are in the quiet sky," &c., and I
sat down on the rocky floor to enjoy the serene pic-
ture. Some crystal specks in the black ceiling high
overhead, reflecting the light of a half-hid lamp,
yielded this magnificent efiect.
I own, I did not like the cave so well for eking
out its sublimities with tliis theatrical trick. But I
have had many experiences like it, before and since ;
and we must be content to be pleased without too
curiously analyzing the occasions. Our conversa-
tion with Nature is not just what it seems. The
cloud-rack, the sunrise and sunset glories, rainbows,
and northern lights are not quite so spheral as our
childhood thought them ; and the part our organ-
ization plays in them is too large. The senses
interfere everywhere, and mix their own structure
with all they report of. Once, we fancied the earth
a plane, and stationary. In admiring the sunset,
we do not yet deduct the rounding, coordinating,
pictorial powers of the eye.
The same interference from our organization cre-
ates the most of our pleasure and pain. Our first
mistake is the belief that the circumstance gives the
joy which we give to the circumstance. Life is an
ecstasy. Life is sweet as nitrous oxide ; and the
fisherman dripping all day over a cold pond, the
switchman at the railway intersection, the farmer in
the field, the negro in the rice-swamp, the fop in the
street, the hunter in the woods, the barrister with
the jury, the belle at the ball, all ascribe a certain
pleasure to their employment, which they them-
selves give it. Health and appetite impart the
sweetness to sugar, bread, and meat. We fancy
that our civilization has got on far, but we still
come back to our primers.
We live by our imaginations, by our admirations,
by our sentiments. The child walks amid heaps of
illusions, which he does not like to have disturbed.
The boy, how sweet to him is his fancy I how dear
the story of barons and battles ! What a hero he
276 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
is, whilst he feeds on his heroes ! What a debt is
his to imaginative books ! He has no better fi-iend
or influence, than Scott, Shakspeare, Plutarch, and
Homer. The man lives to other objects, but who
dare affirm that they are more real ? Even the
prose of the streets is full of refractions. In the
life of the dreariest alderman, fancy enters into all
details, and colors them with rosy hue. He imi-
tates the air and actions of people whom he ad-
mires, and is raised in his own eyes. He pays a
debt quicker to a rich man than to a poor man.
He wishes the bow and compliment of some leader
in the state, or in society ; weighs what he says ;
perhaps he never comes nearer to him for that, but
dies at last better contented for this amusement of
his eyes and his fancy.
The world rolls, the din of life is never hushed.
In London, in Paris, in Boston, in San Francisco,
the carnival, the masquerade is at its height. No-
body drops his domino. The unities, the fictions
of the piece it would be an impertinence to break.
The chapter of fascinations is very long. Great is
paint ; nay, God is the painter ; and we rightly
accuse the critic who destroys too many illusions.
Society does not love its unmaskers. It was wittily,
if somewhat bitterly, said by D'Alembeit, ^' qiiun
etat de vapeur Stait un Stat tres fdcheux, parcequHl
nous faisait voir les chases comme elles sont.^^ I find
men victims of illusion in all parts of life. Chil-
dren, youths, adults, and old men, all are led by
one bawble or another. Yoganidra, the goddess of
illusion, Proteus, or Momus, or Gylfi's Mocking, —
for the Power has many names, — is stronger than
the Titans, stronger than Apollo. Few have over-
heard the gods, or surprised their secret. Life is
a succession of lessons which must be lived to be
understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle
is another riddle. There are as many pillows
of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake
from one dream into another dream. The toys, to
be sure, are various, and are graduated in refine-
ment to the quality of the dupe. The intellectual
man requires a fine bait ; the sots are easily amused.
But everybody is drugged with his own frenzy, and
the pageant marches at all hours, with music and
banner and badge.
Amid the joyous troop who give in to the chari-
vari, comes now and then a sad-eyed boy, whose
eyes lack the requisite refractions to clothe the
show in due glory, and who. is afflicted with a ten-
dency to trace home the glittering miscellany of
fruits and flowers to one root. Science is a search
after identity, and the scientific whim is lurking in
all corners. At the State Fair, a friend of mine
complained that all the varieties of fancy pears in
our orchards seem to have been selected by some-
body who had a whim for a particular kind of pear,
and only cultivated such as had that perfume ; they
278 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
were all alike. And I remember the qnaiTel of an-
other youth with the confectioners, that, when he
racked his wit to choose the best comfits in the
shops, in all the endless varieties of sweetmeat he
could only find three flavors, or two. What then ?
Pears and cakes are good for something ; and be-
cause you, unluckily, have an eye or nose too keen,
why need you spoil the comfort which the rest of us
find in them ? I knew a humorist, who, in a good
deal of rattle, had a grain or two of sense. He
shocked the company by maintaining that the attri-
butes of God were two, — power and risibility ; and
that it was the duty of every pious man to keep up
the comedy. And I have known gentlemen of
great stake in the community, but whose s;^Tnpa-
thies were cold, — presidents of colleges, and gov-
ernors, and senators, — who held themselves bound
to sign every temperance pledge, and act with Bible
societies, and missions, and peace-makers, and cry
Hist-a-boy! to every good dog. We must not carry-
comity too far, but we all have kind impulses in this
direction. When the boys come into niy yard for
leave to gather horse-chestnuts, I own I enter into
Nature's game, and affect to grant the permission
reluctantly, fearing that any moment they will find
out the imposture of that showy chaff. But this
tenderness is quite unnecessary ; the enchantments
are laid on very thick. Their young life is thatched
with them. Bare and grim to tears is the lot of the
children in the hovel I saw yesterday ; yet not the
less they hung it round with frippery romance, like
the children of the happiest fortune, and talked of
" the dear cottage where so many joyful hours had
flown." Well, this thatching of hovels is the cus-
tom of the country. Women, more than all, are
the element and kingdom of illusion. Being fasci-
nated, they fascinate. They see through Claude-
Lorraines. And how dare any one, if he could,
pluck away the coulisses^ stage effects, and cere-
monies, by which they live ? Too pathetic, too
pitiable, is the region of affection, and its atmos-
phere always liable to mirage.
We are not very much to blame for our bad
marriages. We live amid hallucinations ; and this
especial trap is laid to trip up our feet with, and all
are tripped up first or last. But the mighty Mother
who had been so sly with us, as if she felt that
she owed us some indemnity, insinuates into the
Pandora-box of marriage some deep and serious
benefits, and some great joys. We find a delight
in the beauty and happiness of children, that makes
the heart too big for the body. In the worst-
assorted connections there is ever some mixture
of true marriage. Teague and his jade get some
just relations of mutual respect, kindly observation,
and fostering of each other, learn something, and
would carry themselves wiselier, if they were now
280 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
'Tis fine for us to point at one or another fine
madman, as if tliere were any exempts. The
scholar in his library is none. I, who have all
my life heard any number of orations and debates,
read poems and miscellaneous books, conversed
with many geniuses, am still the victim of any new
page ; and, if Marmaduke, or Hugh, or Moosehead,
or any other, invent a new style or mythology, I
fancy that the world will be all brave and right, if
dressed in these colors, which I had not thought of.
Then at once I will daub with this new paint ; but
it will not stick. 'Tis like the cement which the
peddler sells at the door ; he makes broken crock-
ery hold with it, but you can never buy of him a
bit of the cement which will make it hold when he
Men who make themselves felt in the world avail
themselves of a certain fate in their constitution,
which they know how to use. But they never
deeply interest us, unless they lift a comer of the
curtain, or betray never so slightly their penetration
of what is behind it. 'Tis the charm of practical
men, that outside of their practicality are a cer-
tain poetry and play, as if they led the good horse
Power by the bridle, and preferred to walk, though
they can ride so fiercely. Bonaparte is intellectual,
as well as Caesar; and the best soldiers, sea-captains,
and railway men have a gentleness, when off duty ;
a good-natured admission that there are illusions,
and who shall say that he is not their sport ? "We
stigmatize the cast-iron fellows, who cannot so de-
tach themselves, as " dragon- ridden," " thunder-
stricken," and fools of fate, with whatever powers
Since our tuition is through emblems and indi-
rections, 'tis well to know that there is method in
it, a fixed scale, and rank above rank in the phan-
tasms. We begin low with coarse masks, and rise
to the most subtle and beautiful. The red men told
Columbus, " they had an herb which took away fa-
tigue ; " but he found the illusion of " arriving from
the east at the Indies " more composing to his lofty
spirit than any tobacco. Is not our faith in the
impenetrability of matter more sedative than nar-
cotics ? You play with jackstraws, balls, bowls,
horse and gun, estates and politics ; but there are
finer games before you. Is not time a pretty toy ?
Life will show you masks that are worth all your
carnivals. Yonder mountain must migrate into
your mind. The fine star-dust and nebulous blur
in Orion, " the portentous year of Mizar and Al-
cor," must come down and be dealt with in your
household thought. What if you shall come to dis-
cern that the play and playground of all this pom-
pous history are radiations from yourself, and that
the sun borrows his beams ? What terrible ques-
tions we are learning to ask ! The former men be-
lieved in magic, by which temples, cities, and men
282 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
were swallowed up, and all trace of them gone.
We are coming on the secret of a magic which
sweeps out of men's minds all vestige of theism and
beliefs which they and their fathers held and were
There are deceptions of the senses, deceptions of
the passions, and the structural, beneficent illusions
of sentiment and of the intellect. There is the
illusion of love, which attributes to the beloved
person all which that person shares with his or her
family, sex, age, or condition, nay, with the human
mind itself. 'Tis these which the lover loves, and
Anna Matilda gets the credit of them. As if one
shut up always in a tower, with one window,
through which the face of heaven and earth could
be seen, should fancy that all the marvels he beheld
beloncred to that window. There is the illusion of
time, which is very deep ; who has disposed of it ?
or come to the conviction that what seems the suo-
cession of thought is only the distribution of wholes
into causal series? The intellect sees that every
atom carries the whole of Nature ; that the mind
opens to omnipotence ; that, in the endless striving
and ascents, the metamorphosis is entire, so that the
soul doth not know itself in its own act, when that
act is perfected. There is illusion that shall de-
ceive even the elect. There is illusion that shall
deceive even the performer of the miracle. Though
he make his body, he denies that he makes it.
Though the world exist from thought, thought is
daunted in presence of the world. One after the
other we accept the mental laws, still resisting those
which follow, which however must be accepted.
But all our concessions only compel us to new pro-
fusion. And what avails it that science has come
to treat space and time as simply forms of thought,
and the material world as hypothetical, and withal
our pretension of property and even of self-hood
are fading with the rest, if, at last, even our
thoughts are not finalities; but the incessant flow-
ing and ascension reach these also, and each •
thought which yesterday was a finality, to-day is
yielding to a larger generalization ?
With such volatile elements to work in, 'tis no
wonder if our estimates are loose and floating. We
must work and affirm, but we have no guess of the
value of what we say or do. The cloud is now
as big as your hand, and now it covers a county.
That story of Thor, who was set to drain the
drinking-horn in Asgard, and to wrestle with the
old woman, and to run with the runner Lok, and
presently found that he had been drinking up the
sea, and wrestling with Time, and racing with
Thought, describes us who are contending, amid
these seeming trifles, with the supreme energies of
Nature. We fancy we have fallen into bad com-
pany and squalid condition, low debts, shoe-bills,
broken glass to pay for, pots to buy, butcher's meat,
"284 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
sugar, milk, and coal. ' Set me some great task,
ye gods ! and I will show my spirit.' * Not so,*
says the good Heaven ; ' plod and plough, vamp
your old coats and hats, weave a shoestring ; great
affairs and the best wine by and by.' Well, 'tis all
phantasm ; and if we weave a yard of tape in all
humility, and as well as we can, long hereafter we
shall see it was no cotton tape at all, but some
galaxy which we braided, and that the threads were
Time and Nature.
We cannot write the order of the variable winds.
How can we penetrate the law of our shifting moods
and susceptibility ? Yet they differ as all and noth-
ing. Instead of the firmament of yesterday, which
our eyes require, it is to-day an eggshell which
coops us in ; we cannot even see what or where our
stars of destiny are. From day to day, the capital
facts of human life are hidden from our eyes. Sud-
denly the mist rolls up, and reveals them, and we
think how much good time is gone, that might
have been saved, had any hint of these things been
shown. A sudden rise in the road shows us the
system of mountains, and all the summits, which
have been just as near us all the year, but quite out
of mind. But these alternations are not without
their order, and we are parties to our various for-
tune. If life seem a succession of dreams, yet
poetic justice is done in dreams also. The visions
of good men are good ; it is the undisciplined will
that is whipped with bad thoughts and bad fortunes.
When we break the laws, we lose our hold on the
central reality. Like sick men in hospitals, we
change only from bed to bed, from one folly to an-
other ; and it cannot signify much what becomes of
such castaways, — wailing, stupid, comatose crea-
tures, — lifted from bed to bed, from the nothing
of life to the nothing of death.
In this kingdom of illusions we grope eagerly for
stays and foundations. There is none but a strict
and faithful dealing at home, and a severe barring
out of all duplicity or illusion there. Whatever
games are played with us, we must play no games
with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last
honesty and truth. I look upon the simple and
childish virtues of veracity and honesty as the root
of all that is sublime in character. Speak as you
think, be what you are, pay your debts of all kinds.
I prefer to be owned as sound and solvent, and my
word as good as my bond, and to be what cannot
be skipped, or dissipated, or undermined, to all the
Sclat in the universe. This reality is the founda-
tion of friendship, religion, poetry, and art. At the
top or at the bottom of all illusions, I set the cheat
which still leads us to work and live for appear-
ances, in spite of our conviction, in all sane hours,
that it is what we really are that avails with friends,
with strangers, and with fate or fortune.
One would think from the talk of men, that
286 CONDUCT OF LIFE..-
riches and poverty were a great matter ; and our
civilization mainly respects it. But the Indians say,
that they do not think the white man with his brow
of care, always toiling, afi-aid of heat and cold, and
keeping witliin doors, has any advantage of them.
The permanent interest of every man is, never to
be in a false position, but to have the weight of
Nature to back him in all that he does. Riches
and poverty are a thick or thin costume ; and our
life — the life of all of us — identical. For we
transcend the circumstance continually, and taste
the real quality of existence ; as in our employ-
ments, which only diflPer in the manipulations, but
express the same laws ; or in our thoughts, which
w^ear no silks, and taste no ice-creams. We see
God face to face every hour, and know the savor
The early Greek philosophers Herachtus and
Xenophanes measured their force on this problem
of identity. Diogenes of Apollonia said, that un-
less the atoms were made of one stuff, they could
never blend and act with one another. But the
Hindoos, in their sacred writings, express the live-
liest feeling, both of the essential identity, and of
that illusion which they conceive variety to be.
" The notions, ' I am^ and ' Thi% is mine,' which
influence mankind, are but delusions of the mother
of the world. Dispel, O Lord of all creatures ! the
conceit of knowledge which proceeds from igno-
ranee." And the beatitude of man they hold to h*e
in being freed from fascination.
The intellect is stimulated by the statement of
truth in a trope, and the will by clothing the laws
of life in illusions. But the unities of Truth and
of Right are not broken by the disguise. There
need never be any confusion in these. In a
crowded life of many parts and performers, ^n
a stage of nations, or in the obscurest hamlet in
Maine or California, the same elements offer the
same choices to each new comer, and, according to
his election, he fixes his fortune in absolute Nature.
It would be hard to put more mental and moral
philosophy than the Persians have thrown into a
sentence : —
" Fooled thou must be, though wisest of the wise :
Then be the fool of virtue, not of vice."
There is no chance, and no anarchy, in the uni-
verse. All is system and gradation. Every god
is there sitting in his sphere. The young mortal
enters the hall of the firmament : there is he alone
with them alone, they pouring on him benedictions
and gifts, and beckoning him up to their thrones.
On the instant, and incessantly, fall snow-storms
of illusions. He fancies himself in a vast crowd
which sways this way and that, and whose move-
ment and doings he must obey : he fancies himself
poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives
288 CONDUCT OF LIFE.
hither and thither, now furiously commanding this
thing to be done, now that. What is he that he
should resist their will, and think or act for him-
self? Every moment, new changes, and new show-
ers of deceptions, to baffle and distract him. And
when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and
the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting
ar^nd him on their thrones, — they alone with
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