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IN THE CHOICE OF MEN HOW FAR LITERARY
GENERALLY speaking, serviceable talents may be inferred from literary merit in the young, not in the old, and but doubtfully in the middle-aged. The talents which are evinced in literature may be turned to the purposes of business, provided their application that way is seasonably determined; before literary objects, enjoyments, and habits of thinking have fixed themselves upon the mind. the mind. But the confirmed enthusiast in literature will not make a man of business; nor the confirmed literary voluptuary; nor perhaps he who has been long accustomed to thinking for thinking's sake. Men so accus
tomed, when reduced to the operations of business, will be apt to value the thought above the purpose.
Of the departments of literature, the imaginative and the philosophic are the worst schools for business, if the mind have been long and exclusively devoted to them.
To him who has long dwelt in his imagination the world will often be "a stage, and all the men and women merely players." But it happens still more frequently, when the sensitiveness which is the ordinary concomitant of a lively imagination is not counteracted, and the mind fortified by other faculties duly exercised, that of all men and women the man of imagination is the most a player, and also that of all players he is the least expert. His fancy suggests to him a hundred parts which he would desire to play in life, no one of which possibly may be compatible with another, or easily to be reconciled with his na
ture and early habits. For example, it is the nature of the imaginative temperament, cultivated by the arts, to undermine the courage, and by abating strength of character to render men easily subservient," sequaces, cereos, et ad mandata imperii ductiles." But, on the other hand, imagination and books suggest to him that it is a noble thing to be independent; and thus, stumbling between his temperament and his fancy, he becomes awkwardly and irresolutely contumacious. By many such incongruities the coherency and drift of the natural man is broken, he is abroad in his purposes, and unfit for business. Further, an imaginative man is apt to see, in his life, the story of his life; and is thereby led to conduct himself in life in such a manner as to make a good story of it rather than a good life, and make himself what he conceives to be interesting, rather than what will be generally acknowledged to be useful and convenient.
And the independent thinking of persons who have trained and habituated themselves to philosophic freedom of opinion, is also unfavourable to statesmanship; because the business of a statesman is less with truth at large than with truths commonly received. The philosopher should have a leaning from prescription, in order to counterbalance early prepossessions and place the mind in equilibrio: the statesman on the contrary should have a leaning towards it. Having to act always with others, through others, and upon others, and those others for the most part vulgus hominum, his presumptions should be in favour of such opinions as are likely to be shared by others; and the arguments should be cogent and easily understood which shall induce him to quit the beaten track of doctrine. His object should be, first to go with the world as far as it will carry him; and from that point taking his start to go farther if he can, but always as much as may be in the
same direction, that is guided by a reference to common ways of thinking.
I speak, be it observed, of men grown old in an exclusive devotion to imaginative and philosophical literature. Fancy and abstract reflection, duly counterpoised and kept within bounds, will both be of use in the transaction of public business; and he can never be more than a second-rate statesman into whose conduct of affairs philosophy and imagination do not in some degree enter.
Without imagination, indeed, there can be no just and comprehensive philosophy; and without this there can be no true wisdom in dealing with practical affairs of a wide and complex nature. The imaginative faculty is essential to the seeing of many things from one point of view, and to the bringing of many things to one conclusion. It is necessary to that fluency of the mind's operations which mainly contributes to its clearness. And finally