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amount of trouble, though he knew it would make him master of universal knowledge.
The true discontent is, I am afraid, much rarer in the mental than in the physical sphere. Most people want to get on—as it is called—in the latter. But most people—I think I may almost venture to say most people—do not want to get on in the former. Dr Johnson, in his Dictionary, has wittily defined enough to be " a little more than you've got." We all realise the truthfulness of this definition in regard to physical matters—in regard to money, for example, and pleasure, and popularity. But in regard to knowledge, Dr Johnson's definition would often be quite inapplicable. Enough knowledge with a vast number of people, is just as much as they've got. If they know grammar, they rather look down upon those who do not. But if they know only the grammar of one language, they have not the slightest desire to know the grammar of two. People like this, of course, never know anything about science; and they do not want to. They look upon scientific pursuits as a waste of time. What is the good of it? What can it matter whether gravity acts directly as the mass and inversely as the square of the distance, or inversely as the mass and directly as the square of the distance? The scientific spirit they regard as a sort of monomania, or at any rate as an amiable foible. In the East End there are people degraded in body, living in the midst of degrading physical associations, and they are nevertheless contented. And there are people in the West End, degraded in mind, living in the midst of degrading mental associations, passing day after day, week after week, month after month, without ever receiving or exchanging an idea; reading nothing but the fashionable intelligence in the 'Morning Post'; talking nothing but small-talk; eating, drinking, sleeping; fishing, shooting, hunting; riding, driving, yachting; dancing, flirting, sight-seeing—but thinking, never. And they are satisfied with their mental condition. In fact, satisfied is scarcely the word to express their strong degree of contentment. They are proud of themselves. They take a special pride in what they call their opinions—I suppose for the reason that they are specially worthless. Where their opinions come from they would find it impossible to say ; but they have got them, and that is enough. They will neither change nor add to them on any consideration whatever. If by chance they hear anything that sounds like a new idea, they shudder and are dismayed. They do not, they naively tell us, want their opinions disturbed. Their poor little stock of notions they regard as a complete system of philosophy, and they pity or despise every one who does not possess the same intellectual treasures.
It is a strange thing that you always find most humility where there is least apparent need for it. I am constantly meeting with fresh illustrations of this fact. I have, you must know, a very large correspondence. Scores, in the course of the year hundreds of persons write to me about my sermons, my lectures and my books. To the great majority of these writers I feel myself largely indebted. Sometimes they point out blunders into which I have fallen; sometimes they draw my attention to omissions, the importance of which I had overlooked; sometimes they give me completely new ideas. Now, without a single exception, all the letters which have taught me anything have been written in a modest and diffident manner. The writers address me apologetically. Though they are really conferring a favour, they seem afraid lest they should be taking a liberty. And the modesty of the letter is almost always in exact proportion to its value. I remember one, for example, the writer of which seemed more than usually selfdistrustful, in which it was suggested that most of the topics I discussed in a certain sermon would have been better omitted, and that a good many topics which I omitted would have been better discussed. The suggestion was a good one; my correspondent was quite right.1 On the other hand, self-complacency and ignorance, impertinence and stupidity, always go together. I sometimes—very rarely however I am happy to say—receive a rude letter, generally anonymous, written in a high and mighty style, simply informing me of the fact that the writer does not approve of me, and drawing explicitly or implicitly the inference that therefore I must be a fool. Now I am never quite able to see that the conclusion follows from the premisses. So that letters of this description teach me nothing, leave me exactly where they found me; and I should be inclined to regard them as altogether wasted, but for the satisfaction which the writers themselves undoubtedly experience.
Every human being ought to cultivate a noble discontent. We should be discontented with the present state of the world's knowledge and try to add to it; and especially we should be discontented with the small proportion of existing knowledge which we have at present mastered, and determine that we will continually master more. To add to the world's knowledge, to make fresh discoveries, may be beyond the reach of most of us; though I think we are far too apt to assume this. If you 1 A sermon on the Culture of the Body.
read the lives of discoverers, what will strike you most is not their genius but their patience. You will be surprised not at the quickness but at the slowness with which their discoveries were made. In fact genius itself has been defined as an infinite capacity for taking pains. I suspect that most of us have brains enough to discover something in some department of human knowledge: what we really lack is the perseverance and the will.
But setting aside, if you like, the possibility of our adding to the stores of human knowledge, it is within the power of the simplest and the busiest of us to make ourselves every day somewhat better acquainted with the results of the labours of others. There was a time when books were only within the reach of the wealthiest, and when scarcely any one but a clergyman could read. There was a time when literature was heavy in all senses of the word, and when it took half a life to wade through a dozen folios, from which after all there was little to be learnt. But now for a shilling — in fact for ninepence — we can buy a science primer as it is called, which will give us in an hour or two a rough idea of the scope and contents of a science. These books are written by the most eminent experts, in the most simple and interesting style, and they will quickly put us in possession of know