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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 "as 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 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.
So, too, great advocates are at their best only when thoroughly convinced of their case. There have been those among them who would not, for any fee, undertake a cause which they saw to lack a fair foundation. In a celebrated murder trial many years ago in Massachusetts the prisoner's able counsel was paralyzed the moment he found his client was false. Indeed it is worthy of profound consideration how much the weight of all public speech comes from the actual and recognized character of the man that speaks. The right man is always most effective where he is best known; the best minister in his own pulpit. Never has there been in the country a more elaborate and brilliant rhetorician than Edward Everett, a man much to be admired and never to be disparaged. But for five years he and John Quincy Adams were colleagues in Congress. In manner the contrast was great between the perfect finish of the one and the rasping voice, the bald, flaming scalp, and index-finger gestures of the other. But while the House looked with pleasure upon the elaborate periods and careful motions and modulations of the one, they felt in the other a singleness of purpose and a momentum of soul that drew them from the lobbies, committee rooms, and grounds and grouped them all around him with every eye and ear turned to the "old man eloquent." The one was a prism, the other a lens.
Force of character largely molds professionial life. Said an intelligent patient: "I tried in this place an allopathic physician and a homeopathic in that because
I believed in the man and trusted him to take care of his practice if not his system." Before the court the advocate must rely upon the clear, dry light of the law, but with the jury his character or supposed character means more. As Theophilus Parsons once stood with his foot familiarly placed on the round of a chair and talked to the jury with his chin on his hand in a friendly way, a juryman afterward remarked of him: "He seemed to be a good sort of a man but not much of a lawyer;" but he had won his verdict.
Character is more in the ministry. I will not say it is everything, but without it the ministry is nothing. The sermons of a certain well-known evangelist are plain, simple, and practical, and the preacher unpretending and sometimes ungrammatical, but there is a solid something in the man that makes the sermon
and gives it power. Chalmers had but a single gesture
and Emmons I think had none, while a late Philadelphia divine in every motion defied the elocutionist; but every time they made their mark. It was the man behind the sermon. I can remember once listening to two public speakers addressing on successive occasions the same audience on practical themes. The one, a man profoundly respected and beloved, spoke in a quiet way with little of gesticulation, and in a voice that deepened and swelled only as the thought rose and the feeling glowed in his manly soul, and every heart, old and young, thrilled to his honest, earnest words. It was the eloquence of character. The other speaker flung his arms, pounded with his hand and foot, reiterated
his words, and exasperated his voice to a whisper and a shout. All in vain. The elders looked inquiringly on; the youngsters smiled. For there was a small group in that audience of whom I knew that he knew that they knew that he was merely their tool, and that mutual consciousness gave his whole utterance, even to those who knew it not, the ring, not of gold but of brass.
Whatever of permanent force is to enter into this our human life, in whatever form, must ally and identify itself with genuine character a mind and heart resting fixedly on firm principle and working consciously and cheerfully in harmony with the eternal, righteous law of God. And this leads to the further remark that: V. Character ensures success. I do not mean what men often count success estate, notoriety, and what not. For we need not forget the ancient inquiry: "Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?" No doubt this seeming success is vastly overestimated when its concomitants and consequents even here are reckoned. The career of the great conqueror has ended in tears, abdication, exile, or assassination. It is a hackneyed truism that neither wealth, rank, office, nor fame has ever brought peace and satisfaction. I know of no more dismal reading than the inner personal history, the actual annoyances and struggles of any whole line of monarchs from the beginning down through, whether English, French, or German, verifying the words:
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Little better on the average has been the fate of the