Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/257

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page of music is a better antidote to melancholy than thinking on all the happiness which one’s own life or that of the universe may ever have contained. Why should overwhelming masses of suffering and joy affect imagination so little while it responds sympathetically to aesthetic and intellectual irritants of very slight intensity, objects that, it must be confessed, are of almost no importance to the welfare of mankind? Why should we be so easily awed by artistic genius and exalt men whose works we know only by name, perhaps, and whose influence upon society has been infinitesimal, like a Pindar or a Leonardo, while we regard great merchants and inventors as ignoble creatures in comparison? Why should we smile at the inscription in Westminster Abbey which calls the inventor of the spinning-jenny one of the true benefactors of mankind? Is it not probable, on the whole, that he has had a greater and less equivocal influence on human happiness than Shakespeare with all his plays and sonnets? But the cheapness of cotton cloth produces no particularly delightful image in the fancy to be compared with Hamlet or Imogen. There is a prodigious selfishness in dreams: they live perfectly deaf and invulnerable amid the cries of the real world.

The same æsthetic bias appears in the moral sphere. Utilitarians have attempted to show that the human conscience commends precisely those actions which tend to secure general happiness and that the notions of justice and virtue pre-