Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/A Rule of Life

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A RULE OF LIFE

'If you want to annoy an opponent thoroughly, and even to harm him,' said a crafty old knave to me, 'you reproach him with the very defect or vice you are conscious of in yourself. Be indignant . . . and reproach him!

'To begin with, it will set others thinking you have not that vice.

'In the second place, your indignation may well be sincere . . . You can turn to account the pricks of your own conscience.

If you, for instance, are a turncoat, reproach your opponent with having no convictions!

'If you are yourself slavish at heart, tell him reproachfully that he is slavish . . . the slave of civilisation, of Europe, of Socialism!'

'One might even say, the slave of anti-slavishness,' I suggested.

'You might even do that,' assented the cunning knave.

February 1878.