Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/233

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

fessions, involving wider work and heavier responsibilities than any other. For all time to come, the freedom, and purity of the press are the test of national virtue and independence.

No writer for the press, however humble, is free from the burden of keeping his purpose high and his integrity white.

The dignity of communities is largely intrusted to our keeping; and while we sway in the struggle or relax in the rest-hour, we must let no buzzards roost on the public shield in our charge.

Reunions like this are necessary and wholesome. They are very pleasant,—and yet they have one side shaded with sadness. Looking down this board we miss some well-remembered faces of past years. Our profession changes its units as rapidly as an army in the field. It is a machine always in strong revolution; its pieces are violently tried, and many drop out unable or unwilling to bear the ceaseless strain. Some of our old members die, and are transported to that Nirvana where the angels are not allowed to use their wings for quills—where there are no nights, and, therefore, neither morning nor evening papers.

And then there is that other and more perplexing change which we see come over our living members, who change their papers, or whose papers change their principles. It is necessary to meet in this fashion once a year, to assure ourselves that whatever else changes, the hearts of our men do not, but still beat in kindly and brotherly sympathy and good-will.

As I stand here to-night, I am struck with the prevailing characteristics of the faces around the board—they are unlike the faces of any other professional gathering. They are dissimilar among themselves as the pebbles of the sea, but have lines of similarity, lines that are typical of our observant, reflective, shrewd, sagacious, persistent, enterprising, humbug-hating, and yet modest calling.

I am reminded by this prevalence of types (I do not mean to pun) of the experiment of an English scientist in making a typical portrait, not of a man, but of a class. He visited the great prison of Millbank, in London. He found that the convicts are photographed on entering, and that all photographs are made under similar circumstances; that is, each convict sits before the camera at the same distance and in precisely the same position—so that the photographs are equal in size, and if a dozen were taken in a pack, and the portrait on top pierced through the right eye with a wire, it would also pierce the right eye of those below. The scientist took with him a lot of these photographs for experiment. He proposed to make a negative from them. It takes, say sixty seconds, to make a good negative from one picture. Well, he placed one in position, and opened his camera; in six seconds he dropped another in front of it; in six seconds more another; in six