« PreviousContinue »
in the belief that the collection thus made of the solemn and weighty or beautiful and pathetic expressions of authoritative minds would be valuable. I cannot help believing that the best readers, so far from bringing against me the charge of superfluity in quotation, will be grateful for the use of these auxiliaries. It stands to reason that no man can handle a great moral theme from his single mind so well as he can when aided by the contributions of the wise men who have handled it before. The form, divisions, and method of the present work have grown out of my own meditations. Its development in details has, of course, been modified as well by the inspiring suggestiveness of the writings of others on the same subject, as by the transplantation into it, with due credit, of many of the most nutritious thoughts and sanative sentiments met with in them.
Contempt and scorn, unless directed by nobler emotions, are as pernicious as they are easy and vulgar. Pure forms of reverence and aspiration are more rarely felt as facts of experience, and are more difficult of attainment as attributes of character. But it is better to lift the eye than to curl the lip. The aphorism of Lavater is good : Trust him little who smilingly praises all alike, him less who sneeringly censures all alike, him least who is coldly indifferent to all alike. Did I not believe this book adapted to develop both a healthy dislike for what is bad in men, and a becoming admiration and love for what is good in them, I would fling it into the fire instead of committing it to the press. Is there anything else so odious as the passions of hatred and envy? What else is so desirable as the qualities of devoutness, wisdom, magnanimity, and peace? Unless the author is ignorant of his own heart he has written the following pages with the warmest pity for the victims of the ignoble traits of human life, and with a fervent desire to remove the causes of their sufferings. Unless he is deceived he has also been actuated by a religious veneration for great and good men, the heroic masters in virtue, and by a purpose to exalt them before the multitude as ideals which shall exert an influence to mould to their likeness those who
earnestly contemplate them. Great men heighten the consciousness of the human race; and it is our grateful duty to magnify him whose genius magnifies mankind. The roll of persons admiringly treated of in the following leaves composes a list of names fit to be kept in the casket of a king.
The majority of men in every age are superficial in character and brittle in purpose, and lead undedicated lives ; swarming together in buzzing crowds in all haunts of amusement or places of low competition, caring little for anything but gossip and pastime, the titillation of the senses, and the gratification of conceit. To state the conditions and illustrate the attractions of a holier and grander happiness, - to hold up the examples of nobler characters and lives, lifted into something of loneliness by their gifts and achievements, - is, accordingly, always a timely service. All better lives are so much redeeming leaven kneaded into the lump of humanity.
There are many disappointed and discontented men and women, exasperated with society, uneasy with seclusion, galled by the bonds of the world when they feel its multitudinous emulation, unable to enjoy freedom and repose when they retreat into solitude.Sometimes this state is a consequence
health. Then the patient has more need of the physician than of the divine, the first desideratum being the restoration of the nervous system to its normal tone. Generally, however, there is equal occasion for moral counsel and medicinal direction. But when this experience is more purely a moral result, it is, in most cases, the product of a too magnified opinion of self combined with a too acute feeling of that opinion. Exactingness is the bane, renunciation the antidote. Self-respect may be the sternest wisdom, but self-idolatry is infatuation. This is one of the many questions which must be analyzed in any adequate presentation of the causes of human loneliness.
The author now dismisses his book of solitude, to find its way and do its work among men, in the hope that it may render many an unhappy heart that service of
sympathetic guidance which he feels such a work would, at an earlier day, have rendered himself.
INTRODUCTION. PHYSICAL SOLITUDE AND SPIRITUAL LONE-