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time it will force its way out. “The sober second thought" of aftertimes corrects the rash judgments of the present. After two centuries of laborious disguise “the blessed martyr Charles " stands forth as a false and perfidious despot, and the “canting fanatic" Cromwell as the grand ruler.
The earlier and darker days were not altogether forgetful of this standard. From the later times of chivalry there come down to us the names of two contemporary knights, a Spaniard and a Frenchman, in the new world and in the old. They were of equal daring and not unequal powers. The Spaniard wrought a vastly greater achievement; for he conquered an ancient empire and poured into Europe the gold of America. The Frenchman, though but a subordinate officer, served a sovereign from whom neither king, emperor, nor pope could detach him. The one stands out as a fearless warrior and conqueror, with a history of marvelous ability, daring, and energy, but a tale of rapacity, treachery, and butchery; a vision filled with ghosts of betrayed, tortured, and murdered monarchs and of slaughtered myriads of their loyal subjects. We shut our eyes in horror. The story of the other is not so much of the Bayard defending the bridge of Garigliano single-handed against two hundred, scaling the fortress of Genoa and the rampart of Padua, charging through the morass breast-deep at Aguadillo, knighting his king upon the battlefield and saving his kingdom at Mésières, as of the Bayard sharing his purse with friends and with strangers, keeping his word
with the treacherous spy, abhorring perfidy, rebuking the profane, relieving the poor, protecting the defenseless, incorruptible in his integrity, and breathing out his soul in prayer upon the battlefield ; it is this that has handed down his name to perpetual honor as “the knight without fear and without reproach.”
It is a significant token of the growing sway of Christian sentiment that both public and private life are now brought to this test. Men stand or fall by what they do, rather than what they say, and not always by what they do so much as how, when, and why they do it. The candidate for high office must, as a rule, show a clean record. A vile physician can practice only with the vile. The criminal's lawyer must beware of the criminal's taint. The infidel even must renounce the morals of Bolingbroke, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Paine, and show himself a good family man and a good citizen in order to sell tickets to his lectures. A man cannot live meanly, then
• Die and endow a college or a cat,"
and so rise to respectability and honor. Benefactions of the dead man do not atone for the worthlessness of the live man. Two millions' worth of white marble walls, filled with a thousand orphans, have won no honor for who was ungracious, ill-tempered, divorced, living and dying without a friend. And while it is better that bad men's money should be used for God than for Satan, I have known a fine educational building where the tablet perpetuated the shame of its
founder. And it is a sad damper in gazing on a fine edifice to hear a gruff voice say, “Rum did it.”
The demand upon men of position and of culture to be also men of character has perhaps never been so exacting. The occasional and startling breaches of trust do not disprove the statement. For those men sink to rise no more. The gentleman of blue blood and haut ton has blown out his brains in token that with his character all was lost. Men will indeed pardon many crudities, some follies and faults in an earnest, honest man - all the more for his honesty and earnestness. But for the man who is believed to be corrupt at heart there is no tolerance. There may be great veins or arteries of meanness traversing the whole soul, incompatible with honor or honorable feeling — an omnivorous selfishness, a dull malignity, a foxy craftiness, a heedless levity, an habitual falsity, or even some one breach of confidence so utter that you never could confide in that man again. On such rocks these men wreck themselves. If a good name is better than precious ointment, the perfume of a good name belongs only to the upright and wholesouled man. IV. Character brings power.
I take it that all ultimate force in the universe is will force ; and character is will force rightly wielded, working firmly and fixedly in harmony with God's eternal law. It is activity, pure and simple. It sees and seizes its sphere and function and holds it fast. It avoids friction within and waste without, internecine war and beating
It is power.
the air. It is all motion and no hindrance. Noblesse oblige. Blood tells. Character propels.
Half a century ago there was a great crusade against shams. If it did not kill them all, it was because there was no real life to kill. They are but illusions. Like illusions they last and like illusions they burst. They fail oftener to delude than is sometimes supposed. Men see through them to the reality behind, just as through some comet, with its train spanning half the heavens, one sees the little star beyond twinkling brightly on. Fictitious greatness and power soon pass away, just as the very kinsmen and servants abandoned the Fifteenth Louis as soon was the breath was out of his vile body,” and as all Rome flocked “to satiate their eyes with gazing on that extinct serpent,” as they called him, Alexander VI.
Character is force in work, force in speech, force in life. In labor it means steadiness, diligence, and resultant skill. In professional life it means thoroughgoing application and painstaking devotedness. In official and public life it means honesty, fidelity, unfaltering firmness, and sedulous toil. The great monarch, like Alfred or Charlemagne, has been the hardest toiler in the kingdom.
Character is depth and force in art. It took a Michael Angelo to carve a Moses or paint a prophet. The soul of a great musician goes into a symphony, a sonata, or an oratorio; or he projects his whole self into the very instrument that he loves, and becomes a Paganini or a Rubinstein, not the artisan, but the artist.
How powerless falls mock feeling, mock earnestness, mock politeness! Men feel their hollowness when they cannot prove or explain it. They soon know the difference between the gentleman who is a gentleman from his heart outwards, and the gentleman after the order of Chesterfield, who, as said sturdy old Johnson, “taught the manners of a dancing master and the morals of a harlot.” They discern the difference between a real though silent sympathy and the shallow words of “good form.” How wide is the interval between the best elocutionist and the true orator!
Even the dramatic art in its highest state passes from imitation into reality. The great actors have commonly felt the passion they presented. Talma shed real tears. Siddons, from the time of leaving home till her return, was the personage she played. Corneille's characters used to make the timid Baron for several days a hero. The elder Booth in a tragedy once endangered the life of his comrade.
Much more when men deal with realities must they be real. High oratory can coruscate only around high themes and occasions. Grandiloquent flights on trivial topics are ridiculous. Our Webster made great speeches only on great occasions, while a vast number of breezy after-dinner speeches pass away with the pop and sparkle of the champagne that enlivened them. There was a brilliant lecturer who made a point of relieving the flow of his wit by the introduction of some one pathetic paragraph as a background. But the device was thin and the pathos commonly fell dead.