« PreviousContinue »
think every one bound, when so questioned, always, whether he is author or not, to meet the inquiry with a rebuke.
'Hoping that my conjecture is right, of the letter's being a forgery, I remain/ &c.
In any case, however, in which a refusal to answer does not convey any information, the best way, perhaps, of meeting impertinent inquiries, is by saying, 'Can you keep a secret V and when the other answers that he can, you may reply, 'Well, so can I.'
''Openness in fame and opinion.'
'Everybody (says one of Miss Edgeworth's characters) says that my mother is the most artful woman in the world: and / should think so, if everybody did not say it; for if she was, you know, nobody would ever find it out.J There is certainly no point in which the maxim is more applicable, that 'it is a matter of Art to conceal the Art.'
'The power to feign when there is no remedy.'
This power is certainly a dangerous one to possess, because one will be tempted to say, again and again, and on slighter and slighter occasions, 'Now, there is no remedy; there is nothing for it but to feign:' that is, perhaps, there is no other mode of effecting the object you have in view.
Certainly it is a nobler thing to have the power and not to use it, than to abstain from feigning, through incapacity. But there are few cases, and to most people none, in which it is justifiable. It is indeed quite allowable for a general to deceive the enemy by stratagems (so called from that very circumstance), because where no confidence is reposed, none can be violated. And again it is a kind of war that is carried on between policemen and thieves. In dealing with madmen, again, there is no more fraud in deceiving them than in angling for trout with an artificial fly; because you are not really dealing with fellowmen. For, though an insane patient considered as to his own proper self, apart from his malady, is, of course, entitled to justice and kindness, he is, in his present state, what is usually (and not incorrectly) called 'one beside himself—'not himself —'out of his mind •' and is regarded as not responsible for his acts, on the very ground that they are not properly his own acts, but those of an irrational being.
But with the exception of such cases, feigning cannot be justified.
A pleader is greatly exposed to temptations to this practice. He has indeed a right to urge all that can be fairly said in his client's favour, and to expose any flaws in the opposite evidence. But it will often serve his cause, to protest solemnly his own sincere conviction, when he feels none; to tax with falsehood the opposed witnesses, when there is no ground for it; and to bring forward fallacious arguments, and mis-statements of facts. [See the Essay on Judicature.] And perhaps he salves his conscience by the consideration that no one is bound to believe him; though it is evident he says what he does say, in the hope of being believed.
How little there is in the world of a really scrupulous reverence for truth, one may see but too many proofs every day. The sentiment expressed by an author of some repute (noticed in the Annotations on Essay I.), implies not only an utter disregard for truth, in what pertains to religion, but also a conviction (founded probably on some knowledge of the world) that the open avowal of this was not likely to do him any discredit. We see journalists, again, admitted—so they do but write ably —to be guides of public opinion, even when it is manifest and notorious that they have no principle but that of writing what will sell best, and are ready to pander to any popular prejudice, and to contradict to-day what they said yesterday, without the least regard for truth and justice, or for the public welfare, or even for decent consistency, when gain is in prospect.
And we may see men admired not only as eminently pious, but as sincere, who have openly professed and vindicated the system of 'reserve,' (or 'economy,') that is, the concealment of their own real sentiments, and the deliberate suppression of portions of God's revealed truth; which are to be kept back, it seems, from the mass of mankind. But then, what these men do teach, is, we are told, the truth, though not the whole truth: as if the omission of one portion did not materially affect, in practice, the character of the rest1. It has been remarked that in a marble statue, every particle remains in exactly the same position in which it existed in the block; the sculptor has merely removed the other portions, and thus discovered the statue. Yet he is generally considered to have made a graven image.
1 The reader is referred to Archdeacon West's Discourse on Reserve; to the Charge on Instruction in the Scriplures (1857), sec. 7, and to that useful and important work, the Index to the Tracts for the Times.
Then again, these same Divines have found a mode of interpreting 'in a non-natural sense/ the Articles and other formularies of the Church to which they profess adherence; holding it allowable to take words in any sense they can be brought to bear, in open disregard of the sense in which the writers designed and knew them to be understood.1
And the same principle is sometimes acted on by persons of quite a different school. These have been known, for instance, to maintain that our Lord's declaration, 'My kingdom is not of this world/ may be interpreted as relating to the then-present time only, and does not imply that his kingdom—though 'not of this world,' then, was not to become such, hereafter! He however must have known that his words could not have been so understood; else He would have been pleading guilty to the charge brought against Him. For, the very design imputed to Him and his followers, and which they always disavowed, was that of designing hereafter to subvert existing governments, and monopolize temporal power. If therefore they had cherished such a design, while they expressed themselves ambiguously, so as to be understood to disclaim it, then, most fairly might the most fraudulent of the Jesuits call themselves 'companions of Jesus!'
It is really painful to be compelled to impute disingenuousness to persons who manifest much religious zeal. But when men are found using such arguments, and maintaining such principles, on some points, as, on others, they reprobate;— setting up, for instance, to serve a purpose, a tradition more recent by several centuries3 than any of the Romish ones which they deride,—it is impossible to give them credit for sincerity in the means resorted to, however sincere may be their belief in the goodness of their end.
1 See Tract XC, reprinted by Messrs. Hope, London. 2 See Thoughts on the Sabbath.
'Dissimulation is but a faint kind of policy.'
What Bacon says of the inexpediency of all insincere proceedings is very true. Nothing but the right can ever be the expedient, since that can never be true expediency which would sacrifice a greater good to a less,—' For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose bis own soul.' It will be found that all frauds, like the 'wall daubed with untempered mortar, ' with which men think to buttress up an edifice, tend to the decay of that which they are devised to support. This truth, however, will never be steadily acted on by those who have no moral detestation of falsehood. It is not given to those who do not prize straightforwardness for its own sake to perceive that it is the wisest course. The maxim that 'honesty is the best policy' is one which, perhaps, no one ever is habitually guided by in practice. An honest man is always before it, and a knave is generally behind it. He does not find out, till too late,
'What a tangled web we weave
No one, in fact, is capable of fully appreciating the ultimate expediency of a devoted adherence to Truth, save the divine Being, who is 'the Truth •' because He alone comprehends the whole of the vast and imperfectly-revealed scheme of Providence, and alone can see the inmost recesses of the human heart, and alone can foresee and judge of the remotest consequences of human actions.
ESSAY VII. OF PARENTS AND CHILDREN.
THE joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears; they cannot utter the one, nor they will not1 utter the other. Children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter; they increase the cares of life, but they mitigate the remembrance of death. The perpetuity by generation is common to beasts; but memory, merit, and noble works, are proper to men—and surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded from childless men, which have sought to express the images of their minds, where those of their bodies have failed—so the care of posterity is most in them that have no posterity. They that are the first raisers of their houses are most indulgent towards their children, beholding them as the continuance, not only of their kind, but of their work; and so both children and creatures.
The difference in affection of parents towards their several children is many times unequal, and sometimes unworthy, especially in the mother; as Solomon saith, 'A wise son rejoiceth the father, but an ungracious son shames the mother.'3 A man shall see, where there is a house full of children, one or two of the eldest respected, and the youngest made wantons; but in the midst some that are as it were forgotten, who, many times, nevertheless, prove the best. The illiberality of parents, in allowance towards their children, is a harmful3 error, and makes them base, acquaints them with shifts, makes them sort4 with mean company, and makes them surfeit more when they come to plenty; and therefore the proof is best when men keep their authority towards their children, but not their purse. Men have a foolish manner (both parents, and schoolmasters, and servants), in creating and breeding an emulation between brothers
1 Nor they will not. Nor will they. 3 Proverbs x. I.
3 Harmful. Pernicious.
'Sleepy poppies harmful harvests yield.'—Dryden.
4 Sort. To associate with; to consort. 'Metals sort and herd with other metals in the earth.'—Woodward.