Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/236

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224
A WORD FOR XANTIPPE.

married her, and had been preaching in season and out of season ever since he could attract a listener, on the fine text, Know Thyself, he ought then to have known himself quite well enough to know that he had no right to go and get married again, to know that his undomestic habits were past cure. He had a decent trade in the stone-cutting line; and though his statuary work was not much more like that of Phidias than his own features and form were like those of Lysis or Alcibiades, it appears that with industry he might have chiselled out a comfortable livelihood if he could not have carved out a fortune. But, by his own confession, he scarcely ever worked at his trade. He was an incorrigible idler, always lounging about Athens, arguing, questioning, exhorting; chaffing and ruffling the big-wigs in the midst of groups of young swells, for whom the fun was almost as good as that of quail-fighting.

He boasted that he never took payment for his lessons. But if the Sophists, for teaching what he considered to be useless or noxious, took the highest prices they could get, why should not he, who neglected his trade to teach what he considered the most important truths, have taken at least enough payment to keep his home comfortable? He himself was constitutionally indifferent to all the common circumstances of life; did not care what he ate or what he drank, was almost insensible to heat and cold, without an effort could remain teetotaller for months, and then without an effort drink the most seasoned toper blind drunk, and walk off to spend a sober day as if nothing had happened; but were his wife and children of the same constitution? Was it fair, was it kind, to make them endure the same hardship as himself, although they felt it keenly and he scarcely felt it at all? Nor, with all his indifference to the good things of this life, does he seem to have fared so badly on the whole. Some of the best houses in Athens were