Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/317

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311
SELF-HELP IN SCIENCE.

it. But under the influence of personal feeling the stream of his words flows more rapidly. His huge form seems to tremble under the storms of passion, and the impression is powerful, although not always pleasant. His personal sallies and the way he utters them somewhat remind one of Mr. Lowe.

It remains to refer briefly to the numerous happy and unhappy sayings which, with Bismarck's signature affixed, have become truly "winged words." Some of these, like the combinations of "blood and iron," and the no less celebrated phrase of "Might goes before right," he distinctly repudiates. Others have been erroneously fathered upon him. The unpleasant bon-mot about "letting the Parisians simmer in their own gravy" is by no means an invention of Bismarck's, but simply a very common German proverb somewhat brutally applied to the unfortunate city. The story of Bismarck having replied to the anxious query of Count Karolyi, if he intended to break the treaty of Gastein, "No; but if I had that intention should I answer you otherwise?" is, if not true, at least well invented. The cynicism of truth is decidedly one of the characteristic features of Bismarck's diplomatic action. The description of Napoleon as the "embodiment of misunderstood incapacity," at a time when the world looked up to the Tuileries as the modern Delphi, shows psychological foresight. But the best, because the simplest, of Bismarck's "happy thoughts" is perhaps his observation with regard to Nicholsburg, the splendid castle of Count Mensdorf, where the preliminary treaty of peace between Austria and Prussia was signed. "My old mansion of Schönhausen," he said, "is certainly very insignificant compared with this magnificent building. A good thing, therefore, that we are at Count Mensdorfs, and not he at my house."

It has been my wish in this brief paper to indicate rather than to prove a literary vein in the great statesman's intellect. The reader whose interest in the matter is roused is referred to the original sources. It may be said that in the best case a parcel of clever letters is a slender foundation for a position in literature. But does quantity alone decide the question? Walpole's idea of cataloguing royal and noble authors as such is not quite so snobbish as appears at first sight. An author whom his position seems to exclude from ordinary literary competition is always a phenomenon of some interest. His desire for literary fame must at least be genuine. As regards Bismarck, he will, with his few spontaneous effusions, perhaps stand a better chance with posterity than other statesmen whose literary productions fill a moderate-sized bookcase.




From Good Words.

SELF-HELP IN SCIENCE.

There was great excitement in the straggling Fifeshire village of Kettle one day in the spring of 1816. The inhabitants were all active, searching here, searching there, and going out in bands in this and that direction. A toddling child had gone astray, and could not be found, had perhaps been carried off by the gypsies, as Adam Smith had been; and the concern and grief of one couple was made common to all, as is the wont of villages, in spite of gossip and petty strifes, at less exciting times. But no child rewarded the eager searchers, though they had even met with blows at the suspected gypsy's encampment. When hope had almost been abandoned, and it seemed hardly possible to do more, in rushed the pig-wife to the father's house, crying, as she threw the child, safe and sound, into the mother's arms, "There, woman, there's your bairn! but for God's sake keep him awa' frae yon place or he may fare waur next time." The infant, who had already shown a keen love of animals and great courage and determination in handling them, had several times been found eagerly looking through the bars at a young litter. He had in some way got to gratify curiosity by nearer scrutiny, and had been for a whole night beside them. The adventure, odd and even ludicrous as are its circumstances, may be said to typify the life of the hero, as finding nothing in nature that is common or unclean, or unworthy of kindly interest, pursuing his studies in face of all obstacles and warnings "to keep awa' frae yon place," and doucely seeking to make a home with nature in her less accessible corners without thought of object beyond the delights of new knowledge.

Thomas Edward, with whom Mr. Smiles has done well to make the world fully acquainted in his latest work,[1] will take high rank among self-helpers. We

  1. "Life of a Scottish Naturalist: Thomas Edward, Associate of the Linnean Society." By Samuel Smiles, Author of "Lives of the Engineers," "Self-Help," etc. Portrait and Illustrations by George Reid, A.R.S.A. John Murray.