Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/253

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

mopolitan, free from particular prejudices, once gave me an account of his observations as a student in an important technical college on the Continent, where his fellow-students were drawn from every nationality. He told me that in class-work the English rarely distinguished themselves, and often made colossal blunders, which excited mirth. But when the class was over, and all adjourned to the workshops, where a practical problem was given, the case was different. "The German," said my informant, "took out a notebook, and immersed himself in long calculations. The Frenchman walked about and indulged from time to time in ingenious and often brilliant suggestions. The Englishman looked out of the window and whistled for a while; then he turned round and did the problem, while the others were still thinking about it." I do not profess to find any moral in this story. I simply tell it you for what it is worth.

I have dealt very superficially with a large subject. The only practical conclusion I can draw is that, being what we are, we must try to make the best of ourselves. To any one who wishes to pursue the subject further—and a lecture such as this should end with a suggestion of further study—I would venture the suggestion that an analysis of the conception of liberty, as it exists in different countries, would be fruitful of results. That conception expresses itself in the claims of the individual on society. Not the least remarkable feature in English history is its lack of picturesque and emancipated individuals. The Englishman has never learned to conceive of himself as detached from his surroundings, as having an inalienable right to do,