Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 3
Part 2 out of 11
_Marquis_--All that I know.
_Baroness_--Then let me complete your information. They say that in old
times you fell in love with the first Madame Marechal.
_Marquis_--I hope you don't believe this silly story?
_Baroness_--Faith, you do so much to please Monsieur Marechal--
_Marquis_--That it seems as if I must have injured him? Good heavens!
Who is safe from malice? Nobody. Not even you, dear Baroness.
_Baroness_--I'd like to know what they can say of me.
_Marquis_--Foolish things that I certainly won't repeat.
_Baroness_--Then you believe them?
_Marquis_--God forbid! That your dead husband married his mother's
companion? It made me so angry!
_Baroness_--Too much honor for such wretched gossip.
_Marquis_--I answered strongly enough, I can tell you.
_Baroness_--I don't doubt it.
_Marquis_--But you are right in wanting to marry again.
_Baroness_--Who says I want to?
_Marquis_--Ah! you don't treat me as a friend. I deserve your confidence
all the more for understanding you as if you had given it. The aid of a
sorcerer is not to be despised, Baroness.
_Baroness_ [_sitting down by the table_]--Prove your sorcery.
_Marquis_ [_sitting down opposite_]--Willingly! Give me your hand.
_Baroness_ [_removing her glove_]--You'll give it back again.
_Marquis_--And help you dispose of it, which is more. [_Examining her
hand_.] You are beautiful, rich, and a widow.
_Baroness_--I could believe myself at Mademoiselle Lenormand's!
_Marquis_--While it is so easy, not to say tempting, for you to lead a
brilliant, frivolous life, you have chosen a role almost austere with
its irreproachable morals.
_Baroness_--If it was a role, you'll admit that it was much like a
_Marquis_--Not for you.
_Baroness_--What do you know about it?
_Marquis_--I read it in your hand. I even see that the contrary would
cost you more, for nature has gifted your heart with unalterable
_Baroness_ [_drawing away her hand_]--Say at once that I'm a monster.
_Marquis_--Time enough! The credulous think you a saint; the skeptics
say you desire power; I, Guy Francois Condorier, Marquis d'Auberive,
think you a clever little German, trying to build a throne for yourself
in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. You have conquered the men, but the women
resist you: your reputation offends them; and for want of a better
weapon they use this miserable rumor I've just repeated. In short, your
flag's inadequate and you're looking for a larger one. Henry IV. said
that Paris was worth a mass. You think so too.
_Baroness_--They say sleep-walkers shouldn't be contradicted. However,
do let me say that if I really wanted a husband--with my money and my
social position, I might already have found twenty.
_Marquis_--Twenty, yes; but not one. You forget this little devil of a
_Baroness [rising]_--Only fools believe that.
_Marquis [rising]_--There's the _hic_. It's only very clever men, too
clever, who court you, and you want a fool.
_Marquis_--Because you don't want a master. You want a husband whom you
can keep in your parlor, like a family portrait, nothing more.
_Baroness_--Have you finished, dear diviner? What you have just said
lacks common-sense, but you are amusing, and I can refuse you nothing.
_Marquis_--Marechal shall have the oration?
_Baroness_--Or I'll lose my name.
_Marquis_--And you _shall_ lose your name--I promise you.
A SEVERE YOUNG JUDGE
From 'The Adventuress'
_Clorinde_ [_softly_]--Here's Celie. Look at her clear eyes. I love her,
_Annibal_--Yes, yes, yes! [_He sits down in a corner._]
_Clorinde_ [_approaching Celie, who has paused in the doorway_]--My
child, you would not avoid me to-day if you knew how happy you make me!
_Celie_--My father has ordered me to come to you.
_Clorinde_--Ordered you? Did you need an order? Are we really on such
terms? Tell me, do you think I do not love you, that you should look
upon me as your enemy? Dear, if you could read my heart you would find
there the tenderest attachment.
_Celie_--I do not know whether you are sincere, Madame. I hope that you
are not, for it distresses one to be loved by those--
_Clorinde_--Whom one does not love? They must have painted me black
indeed, that you are so reluctant to believe in my friendship.
_Celie_--They have told me--what I have heard, thanks to you, Madame,
was not fit for my young ears. This interview is cruel--Please let me--
_Clorinde_--No, no! Stay, Mademoiselle. For this interview, painful to
us both, nevertheless concerns us both.
_Celie_--I am not your judge, Madame.
_Clorinde_--Nevertheless you do judge me, and severely! Yes, my life has
been blameworthy; I confess it. But you know nothing of its temptations.
How should you know, sweet soul, to whom life is happy and goodness
easy? Child, you have your family to guard you. You have happiness to
keep watch and ward for you. How should you know what poverty whispers
to young ears on cold evenings! You, who have never been hungry, how
should you understand the price that is asked for a mouthful of bread?
_Celie_--I don't know the pleadings of poverty, but one need not listen
to them. There are many poor girls who go hungry and cold and keep
_Clorinde_--Child, their courage is sublime. Honor them if you will, but
pity the cowards.
_Celie_--Yes, for choosing infamy rather than work, hunger, or death!
Yes, for losing the respect of all honest souls! Yes, I can pity them
for not being worthier of pity.
_Clorinde_--So that's your Christian charity! So nothing in the
world--bitter repentance or agonies of suffering, or vows of sanctity
for all time to come--may obliterate the past?
_Celie_--You force me to speak without knowledge. But--since I must give
judgment--who really hates a fault will hate the fruit of it. If you
keep this place, Madame, you will not expect me to believe in the
genuineness of your renunciations.
_Clorinde_--I do not dishonor it. There is no reason why I should leave
it. I have already proved my sincerity by high-minded and generous acts.
I bear myself as my place demands. My conscience is at rest.
_Celie_--Your good action--for I believe you--is only the beginning of
expiation. Virtue seems to me like a holy temple. You may leave it by a
door with a single step, but to enter again you must climb up a hundred
on your knees, beating your breast.
_Clorinde_--How rigid you all are, and how your parents train their
first-born never to open the ranks! Oh, fortunate race! impenetrable
phalanx of respectability, who make it impossible for the sinner to
reform! You keep the way of repentance so rough that the foot of poor
humanity cannot tread it. God will demand from you the lost souls whom
your hardness has driven back to sin.
_Celie_--God, do you say? When good people forgive they betray his
justice. For punishment is not retribution only, but the acknowledgment
and recompense of those fighting ones that brave hunger and cold in a
garret, Madame, yet do not surrender.
_Clorinde_--Go, child! I cannot bear more--
_Celie_--I have said more than I meant to say. Good-by. This is the
first and last time that I shall ever speak of this.
A CONTENTED IDLER
From 'M. Poirier's Son-in-Law'
[_The party are leaving the dining-room._]
_Gaston_--Well, Hector! What do you think of it? The house is just as
you see it now, every day in the year. Do you believe there is a happier
man in the world than I?
_Duke_--Faith! I envy you; you reconcile me to marriage.
_Antoinette_ [_in a low voice to Verdelet_]--Monsieur de Montmeyran is a
charming young man!
_Verdelet_ [_in a low voice_]--He pleases me.
_Gaston_ [_to Poirier, who comes in last_]--Monsieur Poirier, I must
tell you once for all how much I esteem you. Don't think I'm ungrateful.
_Gaston_--Why the devil don't you call me Gaston? And you, too, dear
Monsieur Verdelet, I'm very glad to see you.
_Antoinette_--He is one of the family, Gaston.
_Gaston_--Shake hands then, Uncle.
_Verdelet_ [_aside, giving him his hand_]--He's not a bad fellow.
_Gaston_--Agree, Hector, that I've been lucky. Monsieur Poirier, I feel
guilty. You make my life one long fete and never give me a chance in
return. Try to think of something I can do for you.
_Poirier_--Very well, if that's the way you feel, give me a quarter of
an hour. I should like to have a serious talk with you.
_Poirier_--No, stay, Monsieur. We are going to hold a kind of family
council. Neither you nor Verdelet will be in the way.
_Gaston_--The deuce, my dear father-in-law. A family council! You
_Poirier_--Not at all, dear Gaston. Let us sit down.
[_They seat themselves around the fireplace_.]
_Gaston_--Begin, Monsieur Poirier.
_Poirier_--You say you are happy, dear Gaston, and that is my greatest
_Gaston_--I'm willing to double your gratification.
_Poirier_--But now that three months have been given to the joys of the
honeymoon, I think that there has been romance enough, and that it's
time to think about history.
_Gaston_--You talk like a book. Certainly, we'll think about history if
you wish. I'm willing.
_Poirier_--What do you intend to do?
_Poirier_--And to-morrow, and in the future. You must have some idea.
_Gaston_--True, my plans are made. I expect to do to-day what I did
yesterday, and to-morrow what I shall do to-day. I'm not versatile, in
spite of my light air; and if the future is only like the present I'll
_Poirier_--But you are too sensible to think that the honeymoon can last
_Gaston_--Too sensible, and too good an astronomer. But you've probably
_Poirier_--You must have read that, Verdelet?
_Verdelet_--Yes; I've read him.
_Poirier_--Perhaps he spent his life at playing truant.
_Gaston_--Well, Heine, when he was asked what became of the old full
moons, said that they were broken up to make the stars.
_Poirier_--I don't understand.
_Gaston_--When our honeymoon is old, we'll break it up and there'll be
enough to make a whole Milky Way.
_Poirier_--That is a clever idea, of course.
_Gaston_--Its only merit is simplicity.
_Poirier_--But seriously, don't you think that the idle life you lead
may jeopardize the happiness of a young household?
_Gaston_--Not at all.
_Verdelet_--A man of your capacity can't mean to idle all his life.
_Antoinette_--Don't you think you'll find it dull after a time, Gaston?
_Gaston_--You calumniate yourself, my dear.
_Antoinette_--I'm not vain enough to suppose that I can fill your whole
existence, and I admit that I'd like to see you follow the example of
Monsieur de Montmeyran.
_Gaston_ [_rising and leaning against the mantelpiece_]--Perhaps you
want me to fight?
_Antoinette_--No, of course not.
_Poirier_--We want you to take a position worthy of your name.
_Gaston_--There are only three positions which my name permits me:
soldier, bishop, or husbandman. Choose.
_Poirier_--We owe everything to France. France is our mother.
_Verdelet_--I understand the vexation of a son whose mother remarries; I
understand why he doesn't go to the wedding: but if he has the right
kind of heart he won't turn sulky. If the second husband makes her
happy, he'll soon offer him a friendly hand.
_Poirier_--The nobility cannot always hold itself aloof, as it begins to
perceive. More than one illustrious name has set the example: Monsieur
de Valcherriere, Monsieur de Chazerolles, Monsieur de Mont Louis--
_Gaston_--These men have done as they thought best. I don't judge them,
but I cannot imitate them.
_Antoinette_--Why not, Gaston?
_Verdelet_--The Duke's uniform answers for him.
_Duke_--Excuse me, a soldier has but one opinion--his duty; but one
_Gaston_--Enough, it isn't a matter of politics, Monsieur Poirier. One
may discuss opinions, but not sentiments. I am bound by gratitude. My
fidelity is that of a servant and of a friend. Not another word. [_To
the Duke_.] I beg your pardon, my dear fellow. This is the first time
we've talked politics here, and I promise you it shall be the last.
_The Duke_ [_in a low voice to Antoinette_]--You've been forced into
making a mistake, Madame.
_Antoinette_--I know it, now that it's too late.
_Verdelet_ [_softly, to Poirier_]--Now you're in a fine fix.
_Poirier_ [_in same tone_]--He's repulsed the first assault, but I don't
raise the siege.
_Gaston_--I'm not resentful, Monsieur Poirier. Perhaps I spoke a little
too strongly, but this is a tender point with me, and unintentionally
you wounded me. Shake hands.
_Poirier_--You are very kind.
_A Servant_--There are some people in the little parlor who say they
have an appointment with Monsieur Poirier.
_Poirier_--Very well, ask them to wait a moment. [_The servant goes
out_.] Your creditors, son-in-law.
_Gaston_--Yours, my dear father-in-law. I've turned them over to you.
_Duke_--As a wedding present.
THE FEELINGS OF AN ARTIST
From 'M. Poirier's Son-in-Law'
_Poirier_ [_alone_]--How vexatious he is, that son-in-law of mine! and
there's no way to get rid of him. He'll die a nobleman, for he will do
nothing and he is good for nothing.--There's no end to the money he
costs me.--He is master of my house.--I'll put a stop to it. [_He rings.
Enter a servant_.] Send up the porter and the cook. We shall see my
son-in-law! I have set up my back. I've unsheathed my velvet paws. You
will make no concessions, eh, my fine gentleman? Take your comfort! I
will not yield either: you may remain marquis, and I will again become a
_bourgeois_. At least I'll have the pleasure of living to my fancy.
_The Porter_--Monsieur has sent for me?
_Poirier_--Yes, Francois, Monsieur has sent for you. You can put the
sign on the door at once.
_The Porter_--The sign?
_Poirier_--"To let immediately, a magnificent apartment on the first
floor, with stables and carriage houses."
_The Porter_--The apartment of Monsieur le Marquis?
_Poirier_--You have said it, Francois.
_The Porter_--But Monsieur le Marquis has not given the order.
_Poirier_--Who is the master here, donkey? Who owns this mansion?
_The Porter_--You, Monsieur.
_Poirier_--Then do what I tell you without arguing.
_The Porter_--Yes, Monsieur. [_Enter Vatel_.]
_Poirier_--Go, Francois. [_Exit Porter_.] Come in, Monsieur Vatel: you
are getting up a big dinner for to-morrow?
_Vatel_--Yes, Monsieur, and I venture to say that the menu would not be
disowned by my illustrious ancestor himself. It is really a work of art,
and Monsieur Poirier will be astonished.
_Poirier_--Have you the menu with you?
_Vatel_--No, Monsieur, it is being copied; but I know it by heart.
_Poirier_--Then recite it to me.
_Vatel_--Le potage aux ravioles a l'Italienne et le potage a l'orge a la
_Poirier_--You will replace these unknown concoctions by a good meat
soup, with some vegetables on a plate.
_Poirier_--I mean it. Go on.
_Vatel_--Releve. La carpe du Rhin a la Lithuanienne, les poulardes a la
Godard--le filet de boeuf braise aux raisins a la Napolitaine, le jambon
de Westphalie, rotie madere.
_Poirier_--Here is a simpler and far more sensible fish course: brill
with caper sauce--then Bayonne ham with spinach, and a savory stew of
bird, with well-browned rabbit.
_Vatel_--But, Monsieur Poirier--I will never consent.
_Poirier_--I am master--do you hear? Go on.
_Vatel_--Entrees. Les filets de volaille a la concordat--les croustades
de truffe garnies de foies a la royale, le faison etoffe a la
Montpensier, les perdreaux rouges farcis a la bohemienne.
_Poirier_--In place of these side dishes we will have nothing at all,
and we will go at once to the roast,--that is the only essential.
_Vatel_--That is against the precepts of art.
_Poirier_--I'll take the blame of that: let us have your roasts.
_Vatel_--It is not worth while, Monsieur: my ancestor would have run his
sword through his body for a less affront. I offer my resignation.
_Poirier_--And I was about to ask for it, my good friend; but as one has
eight days to replace a servant--
_Vatel_--A servant, Monsieur? I am an artist!
_Poirier_--I will fill your place by a woman. But in the mean time, as
you still have eight days in my service, I wish you to prepare my menu.
_Vatel_--I will blow my brains out before I dishonor my name.
_Poirier_ [_aside_]--Another fellow who adores his name! [_Aloud_.] You
may burn your brains, Monsieur Vatel, but don't burn your sauces.--Well,
_bon jour_! [_Exit Vatel_.] And now to write invitations to my old
cronies of the Rue des Bourdonnais. Monsieur le Marquis de Presles, I'll
soon take the starch out of you.
[_He goes out whistling the first couplet of 'Monsieur and Madame
A CONTEST OF WILLS
From 'The Fourchambaults'
_Madame Fourchambault_--Why do you follow me?
_Fourchambault_--I'm not following you: I'm accompanying you.
_Madame Fourchambault_--I despise you; let me alone. Oh! my poor mother
little thought what a life of privation would be mine when she gave me
to you with a dowry of eight hundred thousand francs!
_Fourchambault_--A life of privation--because I refuse you a yacht!
_Madame Fourchambault_--I thought my dowry permitted me to indulge a
few whims, but it seems I was wrong.
_Fourchambault_--A whim costing eight thousand francs!
_Madame Fourchambault_--Would you have to pay for it?
_Fourchambault_--That's the kind of reasoning that's ruining me.
_Madame Fourchambault_--Now he says I'm ruining him! His whole fortune
comes from me.
_Fourchambault_--Now don't get angry, my dear. I want you to have
everything in reason, but you must understand the situation.
_Madame Fourchambault_--The situation?
_Fourchambault_--I ought to be a rich man; but thanks to the continual
expenses you incur in the name of your dowry, I can barely rub along
from day to day. If there should be a sudden fall in stocks, I have no
reserve with which to meet it.
_Madame Fourchambault_--That can't be true! Tell me at once that it
isn't true, for if it were so you would be without excuse.
_Fourchambault_--I or you?
_Madame Fourchambault_--This is too much! Is it my fault that you don't
understand business? If you haven't had the wit to make the best use of
your way of living and your family connections--any one else--
_Fourchambault_--Quite likely! But I am petty enough to be a scrupulous
man, and to wish to remain one.
_Madame Fourchambault_--Pooh! That's the excuse of all the dolts who
can't succeed. They set up to be the only honest fellows in business. In
my opinion, Monsieur, a timid and mediocre man should not insist upon
remaining at the head of a bank, but should turn the position over
to his son.
_Fourchambault_--You are still harping on that? But, my dear, you might
as well bury me alive! Already I'm a mere cipher in my family.
_Madame Fourchambault_--You do not choose your time well to pose as a
victim, when like a tyrant you are refusing me a mere trifle.
_Fourchambault_--I refuse you nothing. I merely explain my position. Now
do as you like. It is useless to expostulate.
_Madame Fourchambault_--At last! But you have wounded me to the heart,
Adrien, and just when I had a surprise for you--
_Fourchambault_--What is your surprise? [_Aside_: It makes me tremble.]
_Madame Fourchambault_--Thanks to me, the Fourchambaults are going to
triumph over the Duhamels.
_Madame Fourchambault_--Madame Duhamel has been determined this long
time to marry her daughter to the son of the prefect.
_Fourchambault_--I knew it. What about it?
_Madame Fourchambault_--While she was making a goose of herself so
publicly, I was quietly negotiating, and Baron Rastiboulois is coming to
ask our daughter's hand.
_Fourchambault_--That will never do! I'm planning quite a different
match for her.
_Madame Fourchambault_--You? I should like to know--
_Fourchambault_--He's a fine fellow of our own set, who loves Blanche,
and whom she loves if I'm not mistaken.
_Madame Fourchambault_--You are entirely mistaken. You mean Victor
Chauvet, Monsieur Bernard's clerk?
_Fourchambault_--His right arm, rather. His _alter ego_.
_Madame Fourchambault_--Blanche did think of him at one time. But her
fancy was just a morning mist, which I easily dispelled. She has
forgotten all about him, and I advise you to follow her example.
_Fourchambault_--What fault can you find with this young man?
_Madame Fourchambault_--Nothing and everything. Even his name is absurd.
I never would have consented to be called Madame Chauvet, and Blanche is
as proud as I was. But that is only a detail; the truth is, I won't have
her marry a clerk.
_Fourchambault_--You won't have! You won't have! But there are two of
_Madame Fourchambault_--Are you going to portion Blanche?
_Madame Fourchambault_--Then you see there are not two of us. As I am
going to portion her, it is my privilege to choose my son-in-law.
_Fourchambault_--And mine to refuse him. I tell you I won't have your
little baron at any price.
_Madame Fourchambault_--Now it is your turn. What fault can you find
with him, except his title?
_Fourchambault_--He's fast, a gambler, worn out by dissipation.
_Madame Fourchambault_--Blanche likes him just as he is.
_Fourchambault_--Heavens! He's not even handsome.
_Madame Fourchambault_--What does that matter? Haven't I been the
happiest of wives?
_Fourchambault_--What? One word is as good as a hundred. I won't have
him. Blanche need not take Chauvet, but she shan't marry Rastiboulois
either. That's all I have to say.
_Madame Fourchambault_--But, Monsieur--
_Fourchambault_--That's all I have to say.
[_He goes out._]
ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO
BY SAMUEL HART
St. Augustine of Hippo (Aurelius Augustinus) was born at Tagaste in
Numidia, November 13th, 354. The story of his life has been told by
himself in that wonderful book addressed to God which he called the
'Confessions'. He gained but little from his father Patricius; he owed
almost everything to his loving and saintly mother Monica. Though she
was a Christian, she did not venture to bring her son to baptism; and he
went away from home with only the echo of the name of Jesus Christ in
his soul, as it had been spoken by his mother's lips. He fell deeply
into the sins of youth, but found no satisfaction in them, nor was he
satisfied by the studies of literature to which for a while he devoted
himself. The reading of Cicero's 'Hortensius' partly called him back to
himself; but before he was twenty years old he was carried away into
Manichaeism, a strange system of belief which united traces of Christian
teaching with Persian doctrines of two antagonistic principles,
practically two gods, a good god of the spiritual world and an evil god
of the material world. From this he passed after a while into less gross
forms of philosophical speculation, and presently began to lecture on
rhetoric at Tagaste and at Carthage. When nearly thirty years of age he
went to Rome, only to be disappointed in his hopes for glory as a
rhetorician; and after two years his mother joined him at Milan.
[Illustration: _ST. AUGUSTINE AND HIS MOTHER_. Photogravure from a
Painting by Ary Scheffer.]
The great Ambrose had been called from the magistrate's chair to be
bishop of this important city; and his character and ability made a
great impression on Augustine. But Augustine was kept from acknowledging
and submitting to the truth, not by the intellectual difficulties which
he propounded as an excuse, but by his unwillingness to submit to the
moral demands which Christianity made upon him. At last there came one
great struggle, described in a passage from the 'Confessions' which is
given below; and Monica's hopes and prayers were answered in the
conversion of her son to the faith and obedience of Jesus Christ. On
Easter Day, 387, in the thirty-third year of his life, he was baptized,
an unsubstantiated tradition assigning to this occasion the composition
and first use of the _Te Deum_. His mother died at Ostia as they were
setting out for Africa; and he returned to his native land, with the
hope that he might there live a life of retirement and of simple
Christian obedience. But this might not be: on the occasion of
Augustine's visit to Hippo in 391, the bishop of that city persuaded him
to receive ordination to the priesthood and to remain with him as an
adviser; and four years later he was consecrated as colleague or
coadjutor in the episcopate. Thus he entered on a busy public life of
thirty-five years, which called for the exercise of all his powers as a
Christian, a metaphysician, a man of letters, a theologian, an
ecclesiastic, and an administrator.
Into the details of that life it is impossible to enter here; it must
suffice to indicate some of the ways in which as a writer he gained and
still holds a high place in Western Christendom, having had an influence
which can be paralleled, from among uninspired men, only by that of
Aristotle. He maintained the unity of the Church, and its true breadth,
against the Donatists; he argued, as he so well could argue, against the
irreligion of the Manichaeans; when the great Pelagian heresy arose, he
defended the truth of the doctrine of divine grace as no one could have
done who had not learned by experience its power in the regeneration and
conversion of his own soul; he brought out from the treasures of Holy
Scripture ample lessons of truth and duty, in simple exposition and
exhortation; and in full treatises he stated and enforced the great
doctrines of Christianity.
Augustine was not alone or chiefly the stern theologian whom men picture
to themselves when they are told that he was the Calvin of those early
days, or when they read from his voluminous and often illogical writings
quotations which have a hard sound. If he taught a stern doctrine of
predestinarianism, he taught also the great power of sacramental grace;
if he dwelt at times on the awfulness of the divine justice, he spoke
also from the depths of his experience of the power of the divine love;
and his influence on the ages has been rather that of the
'Confessions'--taking their key-note from the words of the first
chapter, "Thou, O Lord, hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is
unquiet until it find rest in Thee"--than that of the writings which
have earned for their author the foremost place among the Doctors of the
Western Church. But his greatest work, without any doubt, is the
treatise on the 'City of God.' The Roman empire, as Augustine's life
passed on, was hastening to its end. Moral and political declension had
doubtless been arrested by the good influence which had been brought to
bear upon it; but it was impossible to avert its fall. "Men's hearts,"
as well among the heathen as among the Christians, were "failing them
for fear and for looking after those things that were coming on the
earth." And Christianity was called to meet the argument drawn from the
fact that the visible declension seemed to date from the time when the
new religion was introduced into the Roman world, and that the most
rapid decline had been from the time when it had been accepted as the
religion of the State. It fell to the Bishop of Hippo to write in reply
one of the greatest works ever written by a Christian. Eloquence and
learning, argument and irony, appeals to history and earnest entreaties,
are united to move enemies to acknowledge the truth and to strengthen
the faithful in maintaining it. The writer sets over against each other
the city of the world and the city of God, and in varied ways draws the
contrast between them; and while mourning over the ruin that is coming
upon the great city that had become a world-empire, he tells of the holy
beauty and enduring strength of "the city that hath the foundations."
Apart from the interest attaching to the great subjects handled by St.
Augustine in his many works, and from the literary attractions of
writings which unite high moral earnestness and the use of a cultivated
rhetorical style, his works formed a model for Latin theologians as long
as that language continued to be habitually used by Western scholars;
and to-day both the spirit and the style of the great man have a wide
influence on the devotional and the controversial style of writers on
He died at Hippo, August 28th, 430.
The selections are from the 'Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,'
by permission of the Christian Literature Company.
THE GODLY SORROW THAT WORKETH REPENTANCE
From the 'Confessions'
Such was the story of Pontitianus: but thou, O Lord, while he was
speaking, didst turn me round towards myself, taking me from behind my
back, when I had placed myself, unwilling to observe myself; and setting
me before my face, that I might see how foul I was, how crooked and
defiled, bespotted and ulcerous. And I beheld and stood aghast; and
whither to flee from myself I found not. And if I sought to turn mine
eye from off myself, he went on with his relation, and thou didst again
set me over against myself, and thrusted me before my eyes, that I might
find out mine iniquity and hate it. I had known it, but made as though I
saw it not, winked at it, and forgot it.
But now, the more ardently I loved those whose healthful affections I
heard of, that they had resigned themselves wholly to thee to be cured,
the more did I abhor myself when compared with them. For many of my
years (some twelve) had now run out with me since my nineteenth, when,
upon the reading of Cicero's 'Hortensius,' I was stirred to an earnest
love of wisdom; and still I was deferring to reject mere earthly
felicity and to give myself to search out that, whereof not the finding
only, but the very search, was to be preferred to the treasures and
kingdoms of the world, though already found, and to the pleasures of the
body, though spread around me at my will. But I, wretched, most
wretched, in the very beginning of my early youth, had begged chastity
of thee, and said, "Give me chastity and continency, only not yet." For
I feared lest thou shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the
disease of concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than
extinguished. And I had wandered through crooked ways in a sacrilegious
superstition, not indeed assured thereof, but as preferring it to the
others which I did not seek religiously, but opposed maliciously.
But when a deep consideration had, from the secret bottom of my soul,
drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart,
there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. And that
I might pour it forth wholly in its natural expressions, I rose from
Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of
weeping; and I retired so far that even his presence could not be a
burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of
it; for something I suppose he had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice
appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained
where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I
know not how, under a fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the
floods of mine eyes gushed out, an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And,
not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto
thee:--"And thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt thou be
angry--forever? Remember not our former iniquities," for I felt that I
was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: "How long? how long?
To-morrow and to-morrow? Why not now? why is there not this hour an end
to my uncleanness?"
From the 'Confessions'
So was I speaking, and weeping, in the most bitter contrition of my
heart, when lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or
girl (I could not tell which), chanting and oft repeating, "Take up and
read; take up and read." Instantly my countenance altered, and I began
to think most intently whether any were wont in any kind of play to sing
such words, nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So,
checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no
other than a command from God, to open the book and read the first
chapter I should find. Eagerly then I returned to the place where
Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Epistles
when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section
on which my eyes first fell:--"Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in
chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the
lusts thereof." No further would I read; nor heeded I, for instantly at
the end of this sentence, by a light, as it were, of serenity infused
into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.
Reduced facsimile of a Latin manuscript containing the
SERMONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE.
Sixth Century. In the National Library at Paris.
A fine specimen of sixth-century writing upon sheets formed of two thin
layers of longitudinal strips of the stem or pith of the papyrus plant
pressed together at right angles to each other.
Then putting my finger between (or some other mark), I shut the volume,
and with a calmed countenance, made it known to Alypius. And what was
wrought in him, which I know not, he thus shewed me. He asked to see
what I had read; I shewed him, and he looked even farther than I had
read, and I knew not what followed. This followed: "Him that is weak in
the faith, receive ye"; which he applied to himself and disclosed to me.
And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and
purpose, and most corresponding to his character, wherein he did always
far differ from me for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined
me. Thence we go to my mother: we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in
order how it took place; she leapeth for joy, and triumpheth and
blesseth thee, "who art able to do above all that we ask or think": for
she perceived that thou hadst given her more for me than she was wont to
beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings.
THE FOES OF THE CITY
From 'The City of God'
Let these and similar answers (if any fuller and fitter answers can be
found) be given to their enemies by the redeemed family of the Lord
Christ, and by the pilgrim city of the King Christ. But let this city
bear in mind that among her enemies lie hid those who are destined to be
fellow-citizens, that she may not think it a fruitless labor to bear
what they inflict as enemies, till they become confessors of the faith.
So also, as long as she is a stranger in the world, the city of God has
in her communion, and bound to her by the sacraments, some who shall not
eternally dwell in the lot of the saints. Of these, some are not now
recognized; others declare themselves, and do not hesitate to make
common cause with our enemies in murmuring against God, whose
sacramental badge they wear. These men you may see to-day thronging the
churches with us, to-morrow crowding the theatres with the godless. But
we have the less reason to despair of the reclamation of even such
persons, if among our most declared enemies there are now some, unknown
to themselves, who are destined to become our friends. In truth, these
two cities are entangled together in this world, and intermingled until
the last judgment shall effect their separation. I now proceed to speak,
as God shall help me, of the rise and progress and end of these two
cities; and what I write, I write for the glory of the city of God, that
being placed in comparison with the other, it may shine with a
THE PRAISE OF GOD
From 'The City of God'
Wherefore it may very well be, and it is perfectly credible, that we
shall in the future world see the material forms of the new heavens and
the new earth, in such a way that we shall most distinctly recognize God
everywhere present, and governing all things, material as well as
spiritual; and shall see Him, not as we now understand the invisible
things of God, by the things that are made, and see Him darkly as in a
mirror and in part, and rather by faith than by bodily vision of
material appearances, but by means of the bodies which we shall wear and
which we shall see wherever we turn our eyes. As we do not believe, but
see, that the living men around us who are exercising the functions of
life are alive, although we cannot see their life without their bodies,
but see it most distinctly by means of their bodies, so, wherever we
shall look with the spiritual eyes of our future bodies, we shall also,
by means of bodily substances, behold God, though a spirit, ruling all
things. Either, therefore, the eyes shall possess some quality similar
to that of the mind, by which they shall be able to discern spiritual
things, and among them God,--a supposition for which it is difficult or
even impossible to find any support in Scripture,--or what is more easy
to comprehend, God will be so known by us, and so much before us, that
we shall see Him by the spirit in ourselves, in one another, in Himself,
in the new heavens and the new earth, in every created thing that shall
then exist; and that also by the body we shall see Him in every bodily
thing which the keen vision of the eye of the spiritual body shall
reach. Our thoughts also shall be visible to all, for then shall be
fulfilled the words of the Apostle, "Judge nothing before the time,
until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of
darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then
shall every man have praise of God." How great shall be that felicity,
which shall be tainted with no evil, which shall lack no good, and which
shall afford leisure for the praises of God, who shall be all in all!
For I know not what other employment there can be where no weariness
shall slacken activity, nor any want stimulate to labor. I am admonished
also by the sacred song, in which I read or hear the words, "Blessed are
they that dwell in Thy house; they will be alway praising Thee."
From 'The Trinity'
O Lord our God, directing my purpose by the rule of faith, so far as I
have been able, so far as Thou hast made me able, I have sought Thee,
and have desired to see with my understanding what I have believed; and
I have argued and labored much. O Lord my God, my only hope, hearken to
me, lest through weariness I be unwilling to seek Thee, but that I may
always ardently seek Thy face. Do Thou give me strength to seek, who
hast led me to find Thee, and hast given the hope of finding Thee more
and more. My strength and my weakness are in Thy sight; preserve my
strength and heal my weakness. My knowledge and my ignorance are in Thy
sight; when Thou hast opened to me, receive me as I enter; when Thou
hast closed, open to me as I knock. May I remember Thee, understand
Thee, love Thee. Increase these things in me, until Thou renew me
wholly. But oh, that I might speak only in preaching Thy word and in
praising Thee. But many are my thoughts, such as Thou knowest, "thoughts
of man, that are vain." Let them not so prevail in me, that anything in
my acts should proceed from them; but at least that my judgment and my
conscience be safe from them under Thy protection. When the wise man
spake of Thee in his book, which is now called by the special name of
Ecclesiasticus, "We speak," he says, "much, and yet come short; and in
sum of words, He is all." When therefore we shall have come to Thee,
these very many things that we speak, and yet come short, shall cease;
and Thou, as One, shalt remain "all in all." And we shall say one thing
without end, in praising Thee as One, ourselves also made one in Thee. O
Lord, the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books
that is of Thine, may they acknowledge who are Thine; if I have said
anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by Thee and by those who are
The three immediately preceding citations, from 'A Select
Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the
Christian Church, First Series,' are reprinted by permission
of the Christian Literature Company, New York.
MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS
BY JAMES FRASER GLUCK
Marcus Aurelius, one of the most illustrious emperors of Rome, and,
according to Canon Farrar, "the noblest of pagan emperors", was born at
Rome April 20th, A.D. 121, and died at Vindobona--the modern
Vienna--March 17th, A.D. 180, in the twentieth year of his reign and the
fifty-ninth year of his age.
His right to an honored place in literature depends upon a small volume
written in Greek, and usually called 'The Meditations of Marcus
Aurelius.' The work consists of mere memoranda, notes, disconnected
reflections and confessions, and also of excerpts from the Emperor's
favorite authors. It was evidently a mere private diary or note-book
written in great haste, which readily accounts for its repetitions, its
occasional obscurity, and its frequently elliptical style of expression.
In its pages the Emperor gives his aspirations, and his sorrow for his
inability to realize them in his daily life; he expresses his tentative
opinions concerning the problems of creation, life, and death; his
reflections upon the deceitfulness of riches, pomp, and power, and his
conviction of the vanity of all things except the performance of duty.
The work contains what has been called by a distinguished scholar "the
common creed of wise men, from which all other views may well seem mere
deflections on the side of an unwarranted credulity or of an exaggerated
despair." From the pomp and circumstance of state surrounding him, from
the manifold cares of his exalted rank, from the tumult of protracted
wars, the Emperor retired into the pages of this book as into the
sanctuary of his soul, and there found in sane and rational reflection
the peace that the world could not give and could never take away. The
tone and temper of the work is unique among books of its class. It is
sweet yet dignified, courageous yet resigned, philosophical and
speculative, yet above all, intensely practical.
Through all the ages from the time when the Emperor Diocletian
prescribed a distinct ritual for Aurelius as one of the gods; from the
time when the monks of the Middle Ages treasured the 'Meditations' as
carefully as they kept their manuscripts of the Gospels, the work has
been recognized as the precious life-blood of a master spirit. An
adequate English translation would constitute to-day a most valuable
_vade mecum_ of devotional feeling and of religious inspiration. It
would prove a strong moral tonic to hundreds of minds now sinking into
agnosticism or materialism.
[Illustration: MARCUS AURELIUS]
The distinguished French writer M. Martha observes that in the
'Meditations of Marcus Aurelius' "we find a pure serenity, sweetness,
and docility to the commands of God, which before him were unknown, and
which Christian grace has alone surpassed. One cannot read the book
without thinking of the sadness of Pascal and the gentleness of Fenelon.
We must pause before this soul, so lofty and so pure, to contemplate
ancient virtue in its softest brilliancy, to see the moral delicacy to
which profane doctrines have attained."
Those in the past who have found solace in its pages have not been
limited to any one country, creed, or condition in life. The
distinguished Cardinal Francis Barberini the elder occupied his last
years in translating the 'Meditations' into Italian; so that, as he
said, "the thoughts of the pious pagan might quicken the faith of the
faithful." He dedicated the work to his own soul, so that it "might
blush deeper than the scarlet of the cardinal robe as it looked upon the
nobility of the pagan." The venerable and learned English scholar Thomas
Gataker, of the religious faith of Cromwell and Milton, spent the last
years of his life in translating the work into Latin as the noblest
preparation for death. The book was the constant companion of Captain
John Smith, the discoverer of Virginia, who found in it "sweet
refreshment in his seasons of despondency." Jean Paul Richter speaks of
it as a vital help in "the deepest floods of adversity." The French
translator Pierron says that it exalted his soul into a serene region,
above all petty cares and rivalries. Montesquieu declares, in speaking
of Marcus Aurelius, "He produces such an effect upon our minds that we
think better of ourselves, because he inspires us with a better opinion
of mankind." The great German historian Niebuhr says of the Emperor, as
revealed in this work, "I know of no other man who combined such
unaffected kindness, mildness, and humility with such conscientiousness
and severity toward himself." Renan declares the book to be "a veritable
gospel. It will never grow old, for it asserts no dogma. Though science
were to destroy God and the soul, the 'Meditations of Marcus Aurelius'
would remain forever young and immortally true." The eminent English
critic Matthew Arnold was found on the morning after the death of his
eldest son engaged in the perusal of his favorite Marcus Aurelius,
wherein alone he found comfort and consolation.
The 'Meditations of Marcus Aurelius' embrace not only moral reflections;
they include, as before remarked, speculations upon the origin and
evolution of the universe and of man. They rest upon a philosophy. This
philosophy is that of the Stoic school as broadly distinguished from the
Epicurean. Stoicism, at all times, inculcated the supreme virtues of
moderation and resignation; the subjugation of corporeal desires; the
faithful performance of duty; indifference to one's own pain and
suffering, and the disregard of material luxuries. With these principles
there was, originally, in the Stoic philosophy conjoined a considerable
body of logic, cosmogony, and paradox. But in Marcus Aurelius these
doctrines no longer stain the pure current of eternal truth which ever
flowed through the history of Stoicism. It still speculated about the
immortality of the soul and the government of the universe by a
supernatural Intelligence, but on these subjects proposed no dogma and
offered no final authoritative solution. It did not forbid man to hope
for a future life, but it emphasized the duties of the present life. On
purely rational grounds it sought to show men that they should always
live nobly and heroicly, and how best to do so. It recognized the
significance of death, and attempted to teach how men could meet it
under any and all circumstances with perfect equanimity.
* * * * *
Marcus Aurelius was descended from an illustrious line which tradition
declared extended to the good Numa, the second King of Rome. In the
descendant Marcus were certainly to be found, with a great increment of
many centuries of noble life, all the virtues of his illustrious
ancestor. Doubtless the cruel persecutions of the infamous Emperors who
preceded Hadrian account for the fact that the ancestors of Aurelius
left the imperial city and found safety in Hispania Baetica, where in a
town called Succubo--not far from the present city of Cordova--the
Emperor's great-grandfather, Annius Verus, was born. From Spain also
came the family of the Emperor Hadrian, who was an intimate friend of
Annius Verus. The death of the father of Marcus Aurelius when the lad
was of tender years led to his adoption by his grandfather and
subsequently by Antoninus Pius. By Antoninus he was subsequently named
as joint heir to the Imperial dignity with Commodus, the son of Aelius
Caesar, who had previously been adopted by Hadrian.
From his earliest youth Marcus was distinguished for his sincerity and
truthfulness. His was a docile and a serious nature. "Hadrian's bad and
sinful habits left him," says Niebuhr, "when he gazed on the sweetness
of that innocent child. Punning on the boy's paternal name of _Verus_,
he called him _Verissimus_, 'the _most_ true.'" Among the many statues
of Marcus extant is one representing him at the tender age of eight
years offering sacrifice. He was even then a priest of Mars. It was the
hand of Marcus alone that threw the crown so carefully and skillfully
that it invariably alighted upon the head of the statue of the god. The
entire ritual he knew by heart. The great Emperor Antoninus Pius lived
in the most simple and unostentatious manner; yet even this did not
satisfy the exacting, lofty spirit of Marcus. At twelve years of age he
began to practice all the austerities of Stoicism. He became a veritable
ascetic. He ate most sparingly; slept little, and when he did so it was
upon a bed of boards. Only the repeated entreaties of his mother induced
him to spread a few skins upon his couch. His health was seriously
affected for a time; and it was, perhaps, to this extreme privation that
his subsequent feebleness was largely due. His education was of the
highest order of excellence. His tutors, like Nero's, were the most
distinguished teachers of the age; but unlike Nero, the lad was in every
way worthy of his instructors. His letters to his dearly beloved teacher
Fronto are still extant, and in a very striking and charming way they
illustrate the extreme simplicity of life in the imperial household in
the villa of Antoninus Pius at Lorium by the sea. They also indicate the
lad's deep devotion to his studies and the sincerity of his love for his
relatives and friends.
When his predecessor and adoptive father Antoninus felt the approach of
death, he gave to the tribune who asked him for the watchword for the
night the reply "Equanimity," directed that the golden statue of Fortune
that always stood in the Emperor's chamber be transferred to that of
Marcus Aurelius, and then turned his face and passed away as peacefully
as if he had fallen asleep. The watchword of the father became the
life-word of the son, who pronounced upon that father in the
'Meditations' one of the noblest eulogies ever written. "We should,"
says Renan, "have known nothing of Antoninus if Marcus Aurelius had not
handed down to us that exquisite portrait of his adopted father, in
which he seems, by reason of humility, to have applied himself to paint
an image superior to what he himself was. Antoninus resembled a Christ
who would not have had an evangel; Marcus Aurelius a Christ who would
have written his own."
* * * * *
It would be impossible here to detail even briefly all the manifold
public services rendered by Marcus Aurelius to the Empire during his
reign of twenty years. Among his good works were these: the
establishment, upon eternal foundation, of the noble fabric of the Civil
Law--the prototype and basis of Justinian's task; the founding of
schools for the education of poor children; the endowment of hospitals
and homes for orphans of both sexes; the creation of trust companies to
receive and distribute legacies and endowments; the just government of
the provinces; the complete reform of the system of collecting taxes;
the abolition of the cruelty of the criminal laws and the mitigation of
sentences unnecessarily severe; the regulation of gladiatorial
exhibitions; the diminution of the absolute power possessed by fathers
over their children and of masters over their slaves; the admission of
women to equal rights to succession to property from their children; the
rigid suppression of spies and informers; and the adoption of the
principle that merit, as distinguished from rank or political
friendship, alone justified promotion in the public service.
But the greatest reform was the reform in the Imperial Dignity itself,
as exemplified in the life and character of the Emperor. It is this fact
which gives to the 'Meditations' their distinctive value. The infinite
charm, the tenderness and sweetness of their moral teachings, and their
broad humanity, are chiefly noteworthy because the Emperor himself
practiced in his daily life the principles of which he speaks, and
because tenderness and sweetness, patience and pity, suffused his daily
conduct and permeated his actions. The horrible cruelties of the reigns
of Nero and Domitian seemed only awful dreams under the benignant rule
of Marcus Aurelius.
It is not surprising that the deification of a deceased emperor, usually
regarded by Senate and people as a hollow mockery, became a veritable
fact upon the death of Marcus Aurelius. He was not regarded in any sense
as mortal. All men said he had but returned to his heavenly place among
the immortal gods. As his body passed, in the pomp of an imperial
funeral, to its last resting-place, the tomb of Hadrian,--the modern
Castle of St. Angelo at Rome,--thousands invoked the divine blessing of
Antoninus. His memory was sacredly cherished. His portrait was preserved
as an inspiration in innumerable homes. His statue was almost
universally given an honored place among the household gods. And all
this continued during successive generations of men.
* * * * *
Marcus Aurelius has been censured for two acts: the first, the massacre
of the Christians which took place during his reign; the second, the
selection of his son Commodus as his successor. Of the massacre of the
Christians it may be said, that when the conditions surrounding the
Emperor are once properly understood, no just cause for condemnation of
his course remains. A prejudice against the sect was doubtless acquired
by him through the teachings of his dearly beloved instructor and friend
Fronto. In the writings of the revered Epictetus he found severe
condemnation of the Christians as fanatics. Stoicism enjoined upon men
obedience to the law, endurance of evil conditions, and patience under
misfortunes. The Christians openly defied the laws; they struck the
images of the gods, they scoffed at the established religion and its
ministers. They welcomed death; they invited it. To Marcus Aurelius, as
he says in his 'Meditations,' death had no terrors. The wise man stood,
like the trained soldier, ready to be called into action, ready to
depart from life when the Supreme Ruler called him; but it was also,
according to the Stoic, no less the duty of a man to remain until he was
called, and it certainly was not his duty to invite destruction by abuse
of all other religions and by contempt for the distinctive deities of
the Roman faith. The Roman State was tolerant of all religions so long
as they were tolerant of others. Christianity was intolerant of all
other religions; it condemned them all. In persecuting what he regarded
as a "pernicious sect" the Emperor regarded himself only as the
conservator of the peace and the welfare of the realm. The truth is,
that Marcus Aurelius enacted no new laws on the subject of the
Christians. He even lessened the dangers to which they were exposed. On
this subject one of the Fathers of the Church, Tertullian, bears
witness. He says in his address to the Roman officials:--"Consult your
annals, and you will find that the princes who have been cruel to us are
those whom it was held an honor to have as persecutors. On the contrary,
of all princes who have known human and Divine law, name one of them who
has persecuted the Christians. We might even cite one of them who
declared himself their protector,--the wise Marcus Aurelius. If he did
not openly revoke the edicts against our brethren, he destroyed the
effect of them by the severe penalties he instituted against their
accusers." This statement would seem to dispose effectually of the
charge of cruel persecution brought so often against the kindly and
Of the appointment of Commodus as his successor, it may be said that the
paternal heart hoped against hope for filial excellence. Marcus Aurelius
believed, as clearly appears from many passages in the 'Meditations,'
that men did not do evil willingly but through ignorance; and that when
the exceeding beauty of goodness had been fully disclosed to them, the
depravity of evil conduct would appear no less clearly. The Emperor who,
when the head of his rebellious general was brought to him, grieved
because that general had not lived to be forgiven; the ruler who burned
unread all treasonable correspondence, would not, nay, could not believe
in the existence of such an inhuman monster as Commodus proved himself
to be. The appointment of Commodus was a calamity of the most terrific
character; but it testifies in trumpet tones to the nobility of the
Emperor's heart, the sincerity of his own belief in the triumph of right
The volume of the 'Meditations' is the best mirror of the Emperor's
soul. Therein will be found expressed delicately but unmistakably much
of the sorrow that darkened his life. As the book proceeds the shadows
deepen, and in the latter portion his loneliness is painfully apparent.
Yet he never lost hope or faith, or failed for one moment in his duty as
a man, a philosopher, and an Emperor. In the deadly marshes and in the
great forests which stretched beside the Danube, in his mortal sickness,
in the long nights when weakness and pain rendered sleep impossible, it
is not difficult to imagine him in his tent, writing, by the light of
his solitary lamp, the immortal thoughts which alone soothed his soul;
thoughts which have out-lived the centuries--not perhaps wholly by
chance--to reveal to men in nations then unborn, on continents whose
very existence was then unknown, the Godlike qualities of one of the
noblest of the sons of men.
* * * * *
The best literal translation of the work into English thus far made is
that of George Long. It is published by Little, Brown & Co. of Boston. A
most admirable work, 'The Life of Marcus Aurelius,' by Paul Barron
Watson, published by Harper & Brothers, New York, will repay careful
reading. Other general works to be consulted are as follows:--'Seekers
After God,' by Rev. F.W. Farrar, Macmillan & Co. (1890); and 'Classical
Essays,' by F.W.H. Myers, Macmillan & Co. (1888). Both of these contain
excellent articles upon the Emperor. Consult also Renan's 'History of
the Origins of Christianity,' Book vii., Marcus Aurelius, translation
published by Mathieson & Co. (London, 1896); 'Essay on Marcus Aurelius'
by Matthew Arnold, in his 'Essays in Criticism,' Macmillan & Co. Further
information may also be had in Montesquieu's 'Decadence of the Romans,'
Sismondi's 'Fall of the Roman Empire,' and Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire.'
[Illustration: Signature: James F. Gluck]
EXCERPTS FROM THE 'MEDITATIONS'
THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN
Begin thy morning with these thoughts: I shall meet the meddler, the
ingrate, the scorner, the hypocrite, the envious man, the cynic. These
men are such because they know not to discern the difference between
good and evil. But I know that Goodness is Beauty and that Evil is
Loathsomeness: I know that the real nature of the evil-doer is akin to
mine, not only physically but in a unity of intelligence and in
participation in the Divine Nature. Therefore I know that I cannot be
harmed by such persons, nor can they thrust upon me what is base. I
know, too, that I should not be angry with my kinsmen nor hate them,
because we are all made to work together fitly like the feet, the hands,
the eyelids, the rows of the upper and the lower teeth. To be at strife
one with another is therefore contrary to our real nature; and to be
angry with one another, to despise one another, _is_ to be at strife one
with another. (Book ii,Sec. I.)
Fashion thyself to the circumstances of thy lot. The men whom Fate hath
made thy comrades here, love; and love them in sincerity and in truth.
(Book vi., Sec. 39.)
This is distinctive of men,--to love those who do wrong. And this thou
shalt do if thou forget not that they are thy kinsmen, and that they do
wrong through ignorance and not through design; that ere long thou and
they will be dead; and more than all, that the evil-doer hath really
done thee no evil, since he hath left thy conscience unharmed. (Book
THE SUPREME NOBILITY OF DUTY
As A Roman and as a man, strive steadfastly every moment to do thy duty,
with dignity, sincerity, and loving-kindness, freely and justly, and
freed from all disquieting thought concerning any other thing. And from
such thought thou wilt be free if every act be done as though it were
thy last, putting away from thee slothfulness, all loathing to do what
Reason bids thee, all dissimulation, selfishness, and discontent with
thine appointed lot. Behold, then, how few are the things needful for a
life which will flow onward like a quiet stream, blessed even as the
life of the gods. For he who so lives, fulfills their will. (Book
So long as thou art doing thy duty, heed not warmth nor cold, drowsiness
nor wakefulness, life, nor impending death; nay, even in the very act of
death, which is indeed only one of the acts of life, it suffices to do
well what then remains to be done. (Book vi., Sec. 2.)
I strive to do my duty; to all other considerations I am indifferent,
whether they be material things or unreasoning and ignorant people.
(Book vi., Sec.22.)
THE FUTURE LIFE. IMMORTALITY
This very moment thou mayest die. Think, act, as if this were now to
befall thee. Yet fear not death. If there are gods they will do thee no
evil. If there are not gods, or if they care not for the welfare of men,
why should I care to live in a Universe that is devoid of Divine beings
or of any providential care? But, verily, there are Divine beings, and
they do concern themselves with the welfare of men; and they have given
unto him all power not to fall into any real evil. If, indeed, what men
call misfortunes were really evils, then from these things also, man
would have been given the power to free himself. But--thou sayest--are
not death, dishonor, pain, really evils? Reflect that if they were, it
is incredible that the Ruler of the Universe has, through ignorance,
overlooked these things, or has not had the power or the skill to
prevent them; and that thereby what is real evil befalls good and bad
alike. For true it is that life and death, honor and dishonor, pain and
pleasure, come impartially to the good and to the bad. But none of these
things can affect our lives if they do not affect our true selves. Now
our real selves they do not affect either for better or for worse; and
therefore such things are not really good or evil. (Book ii., Sec.11.)
* * * * *
If our spirits live, how does Space suffice for all during all the ages?
Well, how does the earth contain the bodies of those who have been
buried therein during all the ages? In the latter case, the
decomposition and--after a certain period--the dispersion of the bodies
already buried, affords room for other bodies; so, in the former case,
the souls which pass into Space, after a certain period are purged of
their grosser elements and become ethereal, and glow with the glory of
flame as they meet and mingle with the Creative Energy of the world. And
thereby there is room for other souls which in their turn pass into
Space. This, then, is the explanation that may be given, if souls
continue to exist at all.
Moreover, in thinking of all the bodies which the earth contains, we
must have in mind not only the bodies which are buried therein, but also
the vast number of animals which are the daily food of ourselves and
also of the entire animal creation itself. Yet these, too, Space
contains; for on the one hand they are changed into blood which becomes
part of the bodies that are buried in the earth, and on the other hand
these are changed into the ultimate elements of fire or air. (Book
I am spirit and body: neither will pass into nothingness, since neither
came therefrom; and therefore every part of me, though changed in form,
will continue to be a part of the Universe, and that part will change
into another part, and so on through all the ages. And therefore,
through such changes I myself exist; and, in like manner, those who
preceded me and those who will follow me will exist forever,--a
conclusion equally true though the Universe itself be dissipated at
prescribed cycles of time. (Book v., Sec. 13.)
* * * * *
How can it be that the gods, who have clothed the Universe with such
beauty and ordered all things with such loving-kindness for the welfare
of man, have neglected this alone, that the best men--the men who walked
as it were with the Divine Being, and who, by their acts of
righteousness and by their reverent service, dwelt ever in his
presence--should never live again when once they have died? If this be
really true, then be satisfied that it is best that it should be so,
else it would have been otherwise ordained. For whatever is right and
just is possible; and therefore, if it were in accord with the will of
the Divine Being that we should live after death--so it would have been.
But because it is otherwise,--if indeed it be otherwise,--rest thou
satisfied that this also is just and right.
Moreover, is it not manifest to thee that in inquiring so curiously
concerning these things, thou art questioning God himself as to what is
right, and that this thou wouldst not do didst thou not believe in his
supreme goodness and wisdom? Therefore, since in these we believe, we
may also believe that in the government of the Universe nothing that is
right and just has been overlooked or forgotten. (Book xii., Sec. 5.)
THE UNIVERSAL BEAUTY OF THE WORLD
To him who hath a true insight into the real nature of the Universe,
every change in everything therein that is a part thereof seems
appropriate and delightful. The bread that is over-baked so that it
cracks and bursts asunder hath not the form desired by the baker; yet
none the less it hath a beauty of its own, and is most tempting to the
palate. Figs bursting in their ripeness, olives near even unto decay,
have yet in their broken ripeness a distinctive beauty. Shocks of corn
bending down in their fullness, the lion's mane, the wild boar's mouth
all flecked with foam, and many other things of the same kind, though
perhaps not pleasing in and of themselves, yet as necessary parts of the
Universe created by the Divine Being they add to the beauty of the
Universe, and inspire a feeling of pleasure. So that if a man hath
appreciation of and an insight into the purpose of the Universe, there
is scarcely a portion thereof that will not to him in a sense seem
adapted to give delight. In this sense the open jaws of wild beasts will
appear no less pleasing than their prototypes in the realm of art. Even
in old men and women he will be able to perceive a distinctive maturity
and seemliness, while the winsome bloom of youth he can contemplate with
eyes free from lascivious desire. And in like manner it will be with
very many things which to every one may not seem pleasing, but which
will certainly rejoice the man who is a true student of Nature and her
works. (Book iii., Sec. 2.)
THE GOOD MAN
In the mind of him who is pure and good will be found neither corruption
nor defilement nor any malignant taint. Unlike the actor who leaves the
stage before his part is played, the life of such a man is complete
whenever death may come. He is neither cowardly nor presuming; not
enslaved to life nor indifferent to its duties; and in him is found
nothing worthy of condemnation nor that which putteth to shame. (Book
iii., Sec. 8.)
Test by a trial how excellent is the life of the good man;--the man who
rejoices at the portion given him in the universal lot and abides
therein, content; just in all his ways and kindly minded toward all men.
(Book iv., Sec. 25.)
This is moral perfection: to live each day as though it were the last;
to be tranquil, sincere, yet not indifferent to one's fate. (Book
vii., Sec. 69.)
THE BREVITY OF LIFE
Cast from thee all other things and hold fast to a few precepts such as
these: forget not that every man's real life is but the present
moment,--an indivisible point of time,--and that all the rest of his
life hath either passed away or is uncertain. Short, then, the time that
any man may live; and small the earthly niche wherein he hath his home;
and short is longest fame,--a whisper passed from race to race of dying
men, ignorant concerning themselves, and much less really knowing thee,
who died so long ago. (Book iii., Sec. 10.)
VANITY OF LIFE
Many are the doctors who have knit their brows over their patients and
now are dead themselves; many are the astrologers who in their day
esteemed themselves renowned in foretelling the death of others, yet now
they too are dead. Many are the philosophers who have held countless
discussions upon death and immortality, and yet themselves have shared
the common lot; many the valiant warriors who have slain their thousands
and yet have themselves been slain by Death; many are the rulers and the
kings of the earth, who, in their arrogance, have exercised over others
the power of life or death as though they were themselves beyond the
hazard of Fate, and yet themselves have, in their turn, felt Death's
remorseless power. Nay, even great cities--Helice, Pompeii,
Herculaneum--have, so to speak, died utterly. Recall, one by one, the
names of thy friends who have died; how many of these, having closed the
eyes of their kinsmen, have in a brief time been buried also. To
conclude: keep ever before thee the brevity and vanity of human life and
all that is therein; for man is conceived to-day, and to-morrow will be
a mummy or ashes. Pass, therefore, this moment of life in accord with
the will of Nature, and depart in peace: even as does the olive, which
in its season, fully ripe, drops to the ground, blessing its mother,
the earth, which bore it, and giving thanks to the tree which put it
forth. (Book iv., Sec. 48.)
A simple yet potent help to enable one to despise Death is to recall
those who, in their greed for life, tarried the longest here. Wherein
had they really more than those who were cut off untimely in their
bloom? Together, at last, somewhere, they all repose in death.
Cadicianus, Fabius, Julianus, Lepidus, or any like them, who bore forth
so many to the tomb, were, in their turn, borne thither also. Their
longer span was but trivial! Think too, of the cares thereof, of the
people with whom it was passed, of the infirmities of the flesh! All
vanity! Think of the infinite deeps of Time in the past, of the infinite
depths to be! And in that vast profound of Time, what difference is
there between a life of three centuries and the three days' life of a
little child! (Book iv., Sec. 50.)
* * * * *
Think of the Universe of matter!--an atom thou! Think of the eternity of
Time--thy predestined time but a moment! Reflect upon the great plan of
Fate--how trivial this destiny of thine! (Book v., Sec. 24.)
* * * * *
All things are enveloped in such darkness that they have seemed utterly
incomprehensible to those who have led the philosophic life--and those
too not a few in number, nor of ill-repute. Nay, even to the Stoics the
course of affairs seems an enigma. Indeed, every conclusion reached
seems tentative; for where is the man to be found who does not change
his conclusions? Think too of the things men most desire,--riches,
reputation, and the like,--and consider how ephemeral they are, how
vain! A vile wretch, a common strumpet, or a thief, may possess them.
Then think of the habits and manners of those about thee--how difficult
it is to endure the least offensive of such people--nay how difficult,
most of all, it is to endure one's self!
Amidst such darkness, then, and such unworthiness, amidst this eternal
change, with all temporal things and even Time itself passing away, with
all things moving in eternal motion, I cannot imagine what, in all this,
is worthy of a man's esteem or serious effort. (Book v., Sec. 10.)
To cease from bodily activity, to end all efforts of will and of
thought, to stop all these forever, is no evil. For do but contemplate
thine own life as a child, a growing lad, a youth, an old man: the
change to each of these periods was the death of the period which
preceded it. Why then fear the death of all these--the death of thyself?
Think too of thy life under the care of thy grandfather, then of thy
life under the care of thy mother, then under the care of thy father,
and so on with every change that hath occurred in thy life, and then ask
thyself concerning any change that hath yet to be, Is there anything to
fear? And then shall all fear, even of the great change,--the change of
death itself,--vanish and flee away. (Book ix., Sec.21.)
Contemplate men as from some lofty height. How innumerable seem the
swarms of men! How infinite their pomps and ceremonies! How they wander
to and fro upon the deep in fair weather and in storm! How varied their
fate in their births, in their lives, in their deaths! Think of the
lives of those who lived long ago, of those who shall follow thee, of
those who now live in uncivilized lands who have not even heard of thy
name, and, of those who have heard it, how many will soon forget it; of
how many there are who now praise thee who will soon malign thee,--and
thence conclude the vanity of fame, glory, reputation. (Book ix., Sec.30.)
The gods are all-powerful or they are not. If they are not, why pray to
them at all? If they are, why dost thou not pray to them to remove from
thee all desire and all fear, rather than to ask from them the things
thou longest for, or the removal of those things of which thou art in
fear? For if the gods can aid men at all, surely they will grant this
request. Wilt thou say that the removal of all fear and of all desire is
within thine own power? If so, is it not better, then, to use the
strength the gods have given, rather than in a servile and fawning way
to long for those things which our will cannot obtain? And who hath
said to thee that the gods will not _strengthen_ thy will? I say unto
thee, begin to pray that this may come to pass, and thou shalt see what
shall befall thee. One man prays that he may enjoy a certain woman: let
thy prayer be to not have even the desire so to do. Another man prays
that he may not be forced to do his duty: let thy prayer be that thou
mayest not even desire to be relieved of its performance. Another man
prays that he may not lose his beloved son: let thy prayer be that even
the fear of losing him may be taken away. Let these be thy prayers, and
thou shalt see what good will befall thee. (Book ix., Sec.41.)
The Universe is either a chaos or a fortuitous aggregation and
dispersion of atoms; or else it is builded in order and harmony and
ruled by Wisdom. If then it is the former, why should one wish to tarry
in a hap-hazard disordered mass? Why should I be concerned except to
know how soon I may cease to be? Why should I be disquieted concerning
what I do, since whatever I may do, the elements of which I am composed
will at last, at last be scattered? But if the latter thought be true,
then I reverence the Divine One; I trust; I possess my soul in peace.
(Book vi., Sec. 10.)
If pain cannot be borne, we die. If it continue a long time it becomes
endurable; and the mind, retiring into itself, can keep its own
tranquillity and the true self be still unharmed. If the body feel the
pain, let the body make its moan. (Book vii., Sec.30.)
LOVE AND FORGIVENESS FOR THE EVIL-DOER
If it be in thy power, teach men to do better. If not, remember it is
always in thy power to forgive. The gods are so merciful to those who
err, that for some purposes they grant their aid to such men by
conferring upon them health, riches, and honor. What prevents thee from
doing likewise? (Book ix., Sec.11.)
ETERNAL CHANGE THE LAW OF THE UNIVERSE
Think, often, of how swiftly all things pass away and are no more--the
works of Nature and the works of man. The substance of the
Universe--matter--is like unto a river that flows on forever. All things
are not only in a constant state of change, but they are the cause of
constant and infinite change in other things. Upon a narrow ledge thou
standest! Behind thee, the bottomless abyss of the Past! In front of
thee, the Future that will swallow up all things that now are! Over what
things, then, in this present life, wilt thou, O foolish man, be
disquieted or exalted--making thyself wretched; seeing that they can vex
thee only for a time--a brief, brief time! (Book v., Sec.23.)
THE PERFECT LIBERTY OF THE GOOD MAN
Peradventure men may curse thee, torture thee, kill thee; yet can all
these things not prevent thee from keeping at all times thy thoughts
pure, considerate, sober, and just. If one should stand beside a limpid
stream and cease not to revile it, would the spring stop pouring forth
its refreshing waters? Nay, if such an one should even cast into the
stream mud and mire, would not the stream quickly scatter it, and so
bear it away that not even a trace would remain? How then wilt thou be
able to have within thee not a mere well that may fail thee, but a
fountain that shall never cease to flow? By wonting thyself every moment
to independence in judgment, joined together with serenity of thought
and simplicity in act and bearing. (Book viii., Sec.51.)
THE HARMONY AND UNITY OF THE UNIVERSE
O divine Spirit of the Universe, Thy will, Thy wish is mine! Calmly I
wait Thy appointed times, which cannot come too early or too late! Thy
providences are all fruitful to me! Thou art the source, Thou art the
stay, Thou art the end of all things. The poet says of his native city,
"Dear city of Cecrops"; and shall I not say of the Universe, "Beloved
City of God"? (Book iv., Sec.23.)
Either there is a predestined order in the Universe, or else it is mere
aggregation, fortuitous yet not without a certain kind of order. For how
within thyself can a certain system exist and yet the entire Universe be
chaos? And especially when in the Universe all things, though separate
and divided, yet work together in unity? (Book iv., Sec.27.)
Think always of the Universe as one living organism, composed of one
material substance and one soul. Observe how all things are the product
of a single conception--the conception of a living organism. Observe how
one force is the cause of the motion of all things: that all existing
things are the concurrent causes of all that is to be--the eternal warp
and woof of the ever-weaving web of existence. (Book iv., Sec.40.)
THE CONDUCT OF LIFE
Country houses, retreats in the mountains or by the sea--these things
men seek out for themselves; and often thou, too, dost most eagerly
desire such things. But this does but betoken the greatest ignorance;
for thou art able, when thou desirest, to retreat into thyself. No
otherwhere can a man find a retreat more quiet and free from care than
in his own soul; and most of all, when he hath such rules of conduct
that if faithfully remembered, they will give to him perfect
equanimity,--for equanimity is naught else than a mind harmoniously
disciplined. Cease not then to betake thyself to this retreat, there to
refresh thyself. Let thy rules of conduct be few and well settled; so
that when thou hast thought thereon, straightway they will suffice to
thoroughly purify the soul that possesses them, and to send thee back,
restless no more, to the things to the which thou must return. With what
indeed art thou disquieted? With the wickedness of men? Meditate on the
thought that men do not do evil of set purpose. Remember also how many
in the past, who, after living in enmity, suspicion, hatred, and strife
one with another, now lie prone in death and are but ashes. Fret then no
more. But perhaps thou art troubled concerning the portion decreed to
thee in the Universe? Remember this alternative: either there is a
Providence or simply matter! Recall all the proofs that the world is, as
it were, a city or a commonwealth! But perhaps the desires of the body
still torment thee? Forget not, then, that the mind, when conscious of
its real self, when self-reliant, shares not the agitations of the body,
be they great or small. Recall too all thou hast learned (and now
holdest as true) concerning pleasure and pain. But perhaps what men call
Fame allures thee? Behold how quickly all things are forgotten! Before
us, after us, the formless Void of endless ages! How vain is human
praise! How fickle and undiscriminating those who seem to praise! How
limited the sphere of the greatest fame! For the whole earth is but a
point in space, thy dwelling-place a tiny nook therein. How few are
those who dwell therein, and what manner of men are those who will
Therefore, forget not to retire into thine own little country
place,--thyself. Above all, be not diverted from thy course. Be serene,
be free, contemplate all things as a man, as a lover of his kind, and of
his country--yet withal as a being born to die. Have readiest to thy
hand, above all others, these two thoughts: one, that _things_ cannot
touch the soul; the other, that things are perpetually changing and
ceasing to be. Remember how many of these changes thou thyself hast
seen! The Universe is change. But as thy thoughts are, so thy life shall
be. (Book iv., Sec.3.)
* * * * *
All things that befall thee should seem to thee as natural as roses in
spring or fruits in autumn: such things, I mean, as disease, death,
slander, dissimulation, and all other things which give pleasure or pain
to foolish men. (Book iv., Sec.44.)
* * * * *
Be thou like a lofty headland. Endlessly against it dash the waves; yet
it stands unshaken, and lulls to rest the fury of the sea. (Book
* * * * *
"Unhappy me upon whom this misfortune hath fallen!"--nay, rather thou
shouldst say, "Fortunate I, that having met with such a misfortune, I am
able to endure it without complaining; in the present not dismayed, in
the future dreading no evil. Such a misadventure might have befallen a
man who could not, perchance, have endured it without grievous
suffering." Why then shouldst thou call _anything_ that befalls thee a
misfortune, and not the rather a blessing? Is that a "misfortune," in
all cases, which does not defeat the purpose of man's nature? and does
that defeat man's nature which his _Will_ can accept? And what that
_Will_ can accept, thou knowest. Can this misadventure, then, prevent
thy Will from being just, magnanimous, temperate, circumspect, free from
rashness or error, considerate, independent? Can it prevent thy Will
from being, in short, all that becomes a man? Remember, then, should
anything befall thee which might cause thee to complain, to fortify
thyself with this truth: this is not a misfortune, while to endure it
nobly is a blessing. (Book iv., Sec.49.)
* * * * *
Be not annoyed or dismayed or despondent if thou art not able to do all
things in accord with the rules of right conduct. When thou hast not
succeeded, renew thy efforts, and be serene if, in most things, thy
conduct is such as becomes a man. Love and pursue the philosophic life.
Seek Philosophy, not as thy taskmaster but to find a medicine for all
thy ills, as thou wouldst seek balm for thine eyes, a bandage for a
sprain, a lotion for a fever. So it shall come to pass that the voice of
Reason shall guide thee and bring to thee rest and peace. Remember, too,
that Philosophy enjoins only such things as are in accord with thy
better nature. The trouble is, that in thy heart thou prefer-rest those
things which are not in accord with thy better nature. For thou sayest,
"What can be more delightful than these things?" But is not the word
"delightful" in this sense misleading? Are not magnanimity,
broad-mindedness, sincerity, equanimity, and a reverent spirit more
"delightful"? Indeed, what is more "delightful" than Wisdom, if so be
thou wilt but reflect upon the strength and contentment of mind and the
happiness of life that spring from the exercise of the powers of thy
reason and thine intelligence? (Book v., Sec.9.)
* * * * *
As are thy wonted thoughts, so is thy mind; and the soul is tinged by
the coloring of the mind. Let then thy mind be constantly suffused with
such thoughts as these: Where it is possible for a man to live, there he
can live nobly. But suppose he must live in a palace? Be it so; even
there he can live nobly. (Book v., Sec.16.)
* * * * *
Live with the gods! And he so lives who at all times makes it manifest
that he is content with his predestined lot, fulfilling the entire will
of the indwelling spirit given to man by the Divine Ruler, and which is
in truth nothing else than the Understanding--the Reason of man.
(Book v., Sec.27.)
Seek the solitude of thy spirit. This is the law of the indwelling
Reason--to be self-content and to abide in peace when what is right and
just hath been done. (Book vii., Sec. 28.)
* * * * *
Let thine eyes follow the stars in their courses as though their
movements were thine own. Meditate on the eternal transformation of
Matter. Such thoughts purge the mind of earthly passion and desire.
(Book vii., Sec. 45.)
* * * * *
Search thou thy heart! Therein is the fountain of good! Do thou but dig,
and abundantly the stream shall gush forth. (Book vii., Sec. 59.)
* * * * *
Be not unmindful of the graces of life. Let thy body be stalwart, yet
not ungainly either in motion or in repose. Let not thy face alone, but
thy whole body, make manifest the alertness of thy mind. Yet let all
this be without affectation. (Book vii., Sec. 60.)
* * * * *
Thy breath is part of the all-encircling air, and is one with it. Let
thy mind be part, no less, of that Supreme Mind comprehending all
things. For verily, to him who is willing to be inspired thereby, the
Supreme Mind flows through all things and permeates all things as truly
as the air exists for him who will but breathe. (Book viii., Sec. 54.)
* * * * *
Men are created that they may live for each other. Teach them to be
better or bear with them as they are. (Book viii., Sec. 59.)
* * * * *
Write no more, Antoninus, about what a good man is or what he ought to
do. _Be_ a good man. (Book x., Sec. 16.)
* * * * *
Look steadfastly at any created thing. See! it is changing, melting into
corruption, and ready to be dissolved. In its essential nature, it was
born but to die. (Book x., Sec. 18.)
Co-workers are we all, toward one result. Some, consciously and of set
purpose; others, unwittingly even as men who sleep,--of whom Heraclitus
(I think it is he) says they also are co-workers in the events of the
Universe. In diverse fashion also men work; and abundantly, too, work
the fault-finders and the hinderers,--for even of such as these the
Universe hath need. It rests then with thee to determine with what
workers thou wilt place thyself; for He who governs all things will
without failure place thee at thy proper task, and will welcome thee to
some station among those who work and act together. (Book vi., Sec.42.)
* * * * *
Unconstrained and in supreme joyousness of soul thou mayest live though
all men revile thee as they list, and though wild beasts rend in pieces
the unworthy garment--thy body. For what prevents thee, in the midst of
all this, from keeping thyself in profound calm, with a true judgment of
thy surroundings and a helpful knowledge of the things that are seen? So
that the Judgment may say to whatever presents itself, "In truth this is
what thou really art, howsoever thou appearest to men;" and thy
Knowledge may say to whatsoever may come beneath its vision, "Thee I
sought; for whatever presents itself to me is fit material for nobility
in personal thought and public conduct; in short, for skill in work for
man or for God." For all things which befall us are related to God or to
man, and are not new to us or hard to work upon, but familiar and
serviceable. (Book vii., Sec.68.)
* * * * *
When thou art annoyed at some one's impudence, straightway ask thyself,
"Is it possible that there should be no impudent men in the world?" It
is impossible. Ask not then the impossible. For such an one is but one
of these impudent persons who needs must be in the world. Keep before
thee like conclusions also concerning the rascal, the untrustworthy one,
and all evil-doers. Then, when it is quite clear to thy mind that such
men must needs exist, thou shalt be the more forgiving toward each one
of their number. This also will aid thee to observe, whensoever occasion
comes, what power for good, Nature hath given to man to frustrate such
viciousness. She hath bestowed upon man Patience as an antidote to the
stupid man, and against another man some other power for good. Besides,
it is wholly in thine own power to teach new things to the one who hath
erred, for every one who errs hath but missed the appointed path and
wandered away. Reflect, and thou wilt discover that no one of these with
whom thou art annoyed hath done aught to debase thy _mind_, and that is
the only real evil that can befall thee.
Moreover, wherein is it wicked or surprising that the ignorant man
should act ignorantly? Is not the error really thine own in not
foreseeing that such an one would do as he did? If thou hadst but taken
thought thou wouldst have known he would be prone to err, and it is only
because thou hast forgotten to use thy Reason that thou art surprised at
his deed. Above all, when thou condemnest another as untruthful, examine
thyself closely; for upon thee rests the blame, in that thou dost trust
to such an one to keep his promise. If thou didst bestow upon him thy
bounty, thine is the blame not to have given it freely, and without
expectation of good to thee, save the doing of the act itself. What more
dost thou wish than to do good to man? Doth not this suffice,--that thou
hast done what conforms to thy true nature? Must thou then have a
reward, as though the eyes demanded pay for seeing or the feet for
walking? For even as these are formed for such work, and by co-operating
in their distinctive duty come into their own, even so man (by his real
nature disposed to do good), when he hath done some good deed, or in any
other way furthered the Commonweal, acts according to his own nature,
and in so doing hath all that is truly his own. (Book ix., Sec.42.)
O Man, thou hast been a citizen of this great State, the Universe! What
matters what thy prescribed time hath been, five years or three? What
the law prescribes is just to every one.
Why complain, then, if thou art sent away from the State, not by a
tyrant or an unjust judge, but by Nature who led thee thither,--even as
the manager excuses from the stage an actor whom he hath employed?
"But I have played three acts only?"
True. But in the drama of thy life three acts conclude the play. For
what its conclusion shall be, He determines who created it and now ends
it; and with either of these thou hast naught to do. Depart thou, then,
well pleased; for He who dismisses thee is well pleased also. (Book
Be not disquieted lest, in the days to come, some misadventure befall
thee. The Reason which now sufficeth thee will then be with thee, should
there be the need. (Book vii., Sec.8.)
* * * * *
To the wise man the dictates of Reason seem the instincts of Nature.
(Book vii., Sec.11)
* * * * *
My true self--the philosophic mind--hath but one dread: the dread lest I
do something unworthy of a man, or that I may act in an unseemly way or
at an improper time. (Book vii., Sec.20.)
* * * * *
Accept with joy the Fate that befalls thee. Thine it is and not
another's. What then could be better for thee? (Book vii., Sec.57)
* * * * *
See to it that thou art humane to those who are not humane. (Book vii.,
* * * * *
He who does _not_ act, often commits as great a wrong as he who acts.
(Book ix., Sec.5.)
* * * * *
The wrong that another has done--let alone! Add not to it thine own.
(Book ix., Sec.20.)
* * * * *
How powerful is man! He is able to do all that God wishes him to do. He
is able to accept all that God sends upon him. (Book xii., Sec.11.)
* * * * *
A lamp sends forth its light until it is completely extinguished. Shall
Truth and Justice and Equanimity suffer abatement in thee until all are
extinguished in death? (Book xii., Sec.15.)
The biography of one of the greatest English novelists might be written
in a dozen lines, so simple, so tranquil, so fortunate was her life.
Jane Austen, the second daughter of an English clergyman, was born at
Steventon, in Hampshire, in 1775. Her father had been known at Oxford as
"the handsome proctor," and all his children inherited good looks. He
was accomplished enough to fit his boys for the University, and the
atmosphere of the household was that of culture, good breeding, and
healthy fun. Mrs. Austen was a clever woman, full of epigram and humor
in conversation, and rather famous in her own coterie for improvised
verses and satirical hits at her friends. The elder daughter, Cassandra,
adored by Jane, who was three years her junior, seems to have had a rare
balance and common-sense which exercised great influence over the more
brilliant younger sister. Their mother declared that of the two girls,
Cassandra had the merit of having her temper always under her control;
and Jane the happiness of a temper that never required to be commanded.
[Illustration: JANE AUSTEN]
From her cradle, Jane Austen was used to hearing agreeable household
talk, and the freest personal criticism on the men and women who made up
her small, secluded world. The family circumstances were easy, and the
family friendliness unlimited,--conditions determining, perhaps, the
cheerful tone, the unexciting course, the sly fun and good-fellowship of
It was in this Steventon rectory, in the family room where the boys
might be building their toy boats, or the parish poor folk complaining
to "passon's madam," or the county ladies paying visits of ceremony, in
monstrous muffs, heelless slippers laced over open-worked silk
stockings, short flounced skirts, and lutestring pelisses trimmed with
"Irish," or where tradesmen might be explaining their delinquencies, or
farmers' wives growing voluble over foxes and young chickens--it was in
the midst of this busy and noisy publicity, where nobody respected her
employment, and where she was interrupted twenty times in an hour, that
the shrewd and smiling social critic managed, before she was
twenty-one, to write her famous 'Pride and Prejudice.' Here too 'Sense
and Sensibility' was finished in 1797, and 'Northanger Abbey' in 1798.
The first of these, submitted to a London publisher, was declined as
unavailable, by return of post. The second, the gay and mocking
'Northanger Abbey,' was sold to a Bath bookseller for L10, and several
years later bought back again, still unpublished, by one of Miss
Austen's brothers. For the third story she seems not even to have sought
a publisher. These three books, all written before she was twenty-five,
were evidently the employment and delight of her leisure. The serious
business of life was that which occupied other pretty girls of her time
and her social position,--dressing, dancing, flirting, learning a new
stitch at the embroidery frame, or a new air on "the instrument"; while
all the time she was observing, with those soft hazel eyes of hers, what
honest Nym calls the "humors" of the world about her. In 1801, the
family removed to Bath, then the most fashionable watering-place in
England. The gay life of the brilliant little city, the etiquette of the
Pump Room and the Assemblies, regulated by the autocratic Beau Nash, the
drives, the routs, the card parties, the toilets, the shops, the Parade,
the general frivolity, pretension, and display of the eighteenth century
Vanity Fair, had already been studied by the good-natured satirist on
occasional visits, and already immortalized in the swiftly changing
comedy scenes of 'Northanger Abbey.' But they tickled her fancy none the
less, now that she lived among them, and she made use of them again in
her later novel, 'Persuasion.'
For a period of eight years, spent in Bath and in Southampton, Miss
Back to Full Books