Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/118

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
106
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

I take it, that we are ourselves part of the things to be seen; and that there is an ancient and proverbial difficulty about seeing ourselves. When certain prejudices have become parts of our mental furniture, when our primary data and our methods of reasoning imply a set of local narrow assumptions, the task of getting outside them is almost the task of getting outside of our own skins. Our pigtails, as the poet observes, persist in hanging behind us in spite of all our circumgyrations. The greatness of a thinker is measured by the width of his intellectual horizon, or by the height to which he can rise above the plane of ordinary thought. Arnold's free play of thought implies the process by which he hoped to achieve liberation for himself. Be yourself cultured, and your eyes will be opened to the ugliness of the Philistines. To be cultured, widen your intellectual horizon, and steep yourself in the best thought of all ages and all civilised men. If Arnold trusted a little too much to the aesthetic perceptions thus generated, he succeeded, I think, in reaching a position from which he both discerned and portrayed most clearly some palpable blots. Such a service is a great one, whatever the accuracy of the judgment. It is good to