Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/719

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

noted the startling fact recorded in it. The gifted narrator tells us how, shortly after the sun had sunk in the west, there came a glow in the east, and presently 'the crescent moon peeps above the plain'"; then you tell Mr. H. R. Haggard that it "won't do." Now I wish to call your attention to the fact that there must be people who think it will do, because, in "The Book-Buyer" for April, 188*7 (Charles Scribner's Sons), in a short review of "Cathedral Days," by Anna Bowman Dodd, Mr. Edmund C. Stedman quotes a descriptive passage. He says, "Take this sunset picture with its felicitous touch at the close." The "felicitous touch" contains the following: "The work of the day for man and beast, and for the sun, as well, was done: all three were going to their evening rest. A boy with a sickle over his straight young back walked near us, whistling a gay little air. The sickle was repeated in silver in the sky, the dawning crescent of the young moon cleaving the eastern horizon." I do not like Mr. Haggard's books; they are as sickening as raw meat. But he has been rated so soundly on that one mistake that I wish it noted that others, and educated people, too, can make the same blunder.

Yours respectfully,
Anne M. Johnson, 494 Centre Street.
Jamaica Plain, Mass.




THAT intellectual superiority is not an end in itself is apparent from more than one consideration. Comte has said with truth that "we get tired of knowing, but never get tired of loving"; and a writer who carries more authority still has said that, when tongues fail and knowledge ceases, charity will still abide. What seems to decide the question, however, is the fact that, when knowledge or intellectual power is made an end in itself, the result is more or less failure and disappointment. "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers," the poet has said; and, to a reflective mind, the distinction between the two is not difficult to seize. He who has knowledge only, knows things and their relations; himself and his relations, above all himself in his relation to the true human ideal, he does not know. He seeks to make his knowledge subservient to his own personal ends; he does not regard it as a revelation of duties to be done, of sacrifices to be made, of heights to be attained. He who has wisdom, on the other hand, holds his knowledge in trust for higher than personal ends, and makes us realize, as other men do not, the true value and dignity of knowledge.

Character, then, is the principal thing. It is character that we continually find to be limiting and conditioning culture; that is to say, if culture is not carried farther than we find it to be in certain cases, the reason is that the character, the moral nature, has not been such as to support and sustain a truly generous culture. There is, perhaps, a finely-developed æstheticism in certain directions, but the lack of culture's perfect work is seen in a certain hard materialism of personal aspiration. The disciple, perchance apostle, of beauty is far from beautiful when we get a glimpse of his inner life and essential aims. He has never learned that the prime secret of all beauty in human life lies in disinterestedness, in the ability to put self aside, on some occasions at least, and to live in causes and principles and, above all, in one's fellow-beings. Few things are more trying than the mock enthusiasm of very mediocre men and women for things that they have learned to admire as by rote, to hear the jargon of the literary or artistic coterie and to know how little it all means as regards real elevation of character and sentiment. And what we say of literary and artistic coteries we might apply with equal truth to scientific coteries, where minute points of classification and nomenclature are discussed with infinite zeal