Page:The Scholar in a Republic.djvu/19

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17
THE SCHOLAR IN A REPUBLIC.

be alive, though swaddled in the grave-clothes of creed and custom as close as their mummies were in linen,—that Egypt is hid in the tomb it inhabited, and the intellect Athens has trained for us digs to-day those ashes to find out how buried and forgotten hunkerism lived and acted.

I knew a signal instance of this disease of scholar's distrust, and the cure was as remarkable. In boyhood and early life I was honored with the friendship of Lothrop Motley. He grew up in the thin air of Boston provincialism, and pined on such weak diet. I remember sitting with him once in the State House when he was a member of our Legislature. With biting words and a keen crayon he sketched the ludicrous points in the minds and persons of his fellow members, and, tearing up the pictures, said scornfully, "What can become of a country with such fellows as these making its laws? No safe investments; your good name lied away any hour, and little worth keeping if it were not." In vain I combated the folly. He went to Europe,—spent four or five years. I met him the day he landed, on his return. As if our laughing talk in the State House had that moment ended, he took my hand with the sudden exclamation, "You were all right: I was all wrong! It is a country worth dying for; better still, worth living and working for, to make it all it can be!" Europe made him one of the most American of all Americans. Some five years later, when he sounded that bugle-note in his letter to "The London Times," some critics who knew his early mood, but not its change, suspected there might be a taint of ambition in what they thought so sudden a conversion. I could testify that the mood was five years old: years before the slightest shadow of political expectation had dusked the clear mirror of his scholar life.