Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/69

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The Green Bag

merely a matter of incidental import ance. But the circle of discerning friends would be a feature of universal utility, provided it were large enough and sufficiently varied in point of view. There is grave peril in restricted mentorship. Partnerships of two persons in literary production have not been infre quent and of some of them it may be said, as it was of the Brothers Goncourt, that they wrought as one composite mind, there being no discernible indi vidual strands. Mental partnerships, without literary production, are very common indeed, and by this is meant not unions of the oak and the ivy but of two equally strong natures. They read and discuss the same 'books, compare notes and modify one another's ex tremes. After a time either may be relied on to express the same opinion without consultation, which will be differ ent from the view either would have held had he not assimilated the other's personality. Up to a certain point the mutual corrective influence is advan tageous. Beyond it lies the tendency to rest content with the approving judg ment of a single fellow-mortal and an opinionativeness all the more inveterate because of the concurrence of another mind which in reality acts like another lobe of the same brain. Were I writing an essay I might descant upon the similar advantages and risks of identification with a group of fellow-craftsmen. Such a circle, how ever informal in character and even though it do not degenerate into a gross mutual admiration society, inevitably evolves a mutual sensitiveness for amour propre and corporate sentiment, ideals and limitations — the very essence of provincialism. This narrowing tendency has been perceptible even in important cliques of men of genius, in protest

against conventionality or for accentua tion of something that was sorely needed but, after all, was not the one thing needful. Young men of your temperament have a goodly assortment of lofty aspirations and eternal verities which in time prove not only "frail as frost landscapes on a window pane" but laughable as school boy rhetoric. The seriousness with which youth takes itself is deepened by the sentiment, frequently uttered in varying form and context, that it is personality alone that gives value to a work of art or, indeed, to work, not merely routine, of any sort. Personality is indispensable in so far as it brings originality and sincerity, and the ear mark of style, which the writer or artist could not have suppressed had he tried, is merely the guinea's stamp. Conscious personality is another name for manner ism. The gospel of self-reliance and courage of conviction has been fanatically preached. I particularly admire the courage frankly to change one's mind. It betokens neither indolent conform ity nor servile conventionality to render one's self en rapport not only with the opinions, but with the senti ments and impressions of those whose suffrage would be the beginning of the judgment of posterity if one's work were to live. This is a matter of self-edu cation and Alma Mater, in whose lap you still sit, has nothing in her curri culum so educationally crucial. You asked me to suggest a motto for your new bookplate. I suppose Try your life on a dog would lack dignity even if it were put into Latin. How will this do? Eyes to the stars, ears to the ground. Affectionately if saturninely, FATHER.