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subject,” writes Dr. Hale, ‘gets full attention when it is up ; there is never any hurrying away from it, but there is no loitering over it.” Such sentences, of course, are meant solely as a tribute to Mr. Roosevelt’s excellent qualities, his power, vitality, and industry, but they come to produce an effect, upon the mind of a stranger, that is little less than distressing. The notion which this book conveys so vividly, of an alert machine, efficient in all its parts, from the simplest to the most private, is impressive, but it also strikes a foreigner with a sense of suffocation, with a feeling almost as of a gigantic hand laid upon the windpipe. Business of course must be conducted with the speed of a machine, but when the whole range of human speculation is made food for such mechanical measures— ‘there is never any hurrying away from it, but there is no loitering over it'—we ask ourselves what state of civilisation can make such lives desirable, or anything but depressing to the beholder. The answer, as Dr. Hale gives it, is that America is a democratic country, and that the President is worshipped by his compatriots as the type of their national virtues. It is, indeed, clear from many touches, from the symbolism of plain furniture and boisterous welcome, that we are to lay stress upon a particular side of the President’s character, that we are to connect it with something of far greater importance than the temperament of a single man. The scene which takes place daily in the President's study when scores of unknown people shake him by the hand and are greeted as fellow men, makes an American ‘proud of his fellow countrymen,” impresses him with a ‘sense of the essential worth of American civilisation,” and leads him to assert that no one ‘has ever seen anywhere on earth a scene of such democratic setting, and manner of enactment, significant of such far-reaching results.” Few people perhaps will be inclined to deny the good sense of such simplicity in outward ornament and ceremony, but the peculiar distinction of President Roosevelt is that he has carried it into more serious matters than any of his predecessors. He asserts that he is President by virtue of his ability, but that the office, by itself, in no way separates him from other men; his claim, indeed, is that the greater your ability the more power you have to sympathise with your fellows, and it is the main advantage of a high position that it gives you an extraordinary opportunity for such intercourse. No one, judging from Dr. Hale's book, can doubt that the astonishing thing about this daily pilgrimage through Mr. Roosevelt’s study lies not at all in any melodramatic contrast between government and leather armchairs, Presidents and farmers, but in the immediate sympathy which at once, so to speak, melts the two men together, There is no need to recapitulate the different types who come to him and at once get into touch with him; it is more interesting to discover what quality this is which most people possess in some degree, and Mr. Roosevelt possesses in perfection. The broad explanation is perhaps that which Dr. Hale gives. ‘Life and the world in every one of innumerable phases, the multitudinous deeds of men, their thoughts and ways, attract him with indescribable fascination.” It is his power of sympathy that distinguishes him from other remarkable men; it is this power, if we may judge from Dr. Hale, that stirs American hearts, and makes them recognise in their President the true flower of democracy. Not only does he sympathise perpetually and vigorously, but he sympathises with the common feelings of men, and is as indifferent to the shades of mind or spirit as he is indifferent to degrees of rank or wealth. His natural democracy carries him even further; there are some qualities which, because they can belong only to a few, have no attraction for him. The academic, he says, must give way to the wise and the practical; he does not care for the ‘worlds of poetry or romance ’; he “respects sentiment,’ but himself indulges only in the sentiments that are common to most men; niceties of speculation annoy him; ethical refinements make little appeal to him, ‘ dreams do not nest in his heart.” But it is unnecessary to point out that even in the most democratic of countries there must be some who dream, who meditate, who enjoy rare and lovely emotions, nor need we insist that to disregard such men is to admit the taint of aristocracy. We need but remark that even the President will not suffer everybody. But the true interest of these limitations is that they serve to define the nature of his sympathy, and show that it is for the simplest form of life, for experiences that are common to all, for humanity in general and not for individuals. He is intoxicated by a crowd; he might do homage to the glow in a dog's eye; the fact that in each of the people who come before him there burns something of the flame, that they are carrying forward the vast onset of life, that he can further it, increase its volume, excites him, and touches him to the quick. His sympathy is with the normal development of this spark; marriage, birth, the upbringing of children, the steady tramp of life through dusty paths to the grave. He is, therefore, understood and loved by the enormous numbers who are occupied with these matters, and they yield to the temptation, to which Dr. Hale also falls a victim, of glorifying the man who is so like themselves, who, by his eminence, authorises their contentment.
“After all,” breaks out Dr. Hale, in a rhapsody of paradox, ‘common humanity is very wonderful and very noble. . . . To represent absolutely the average man . . . would be to be great beyond all other greatness . . . to be the possessor of the greatest thoughts that live in the world’ to surpass ‘any isolated seer or poet whatsoever.’
That is the theme of the book, and it is a familiar doctrine, for it is not only convenient, but it makes a curious appeal to the emotions, so that one who denies it is judged to be both mistaken and morally corrupt—a cynic, and a person of cold imagination.
But however harshly you may judge the embodiment of such a theory—and, to speak honestly, there is nothing lovable in Dr. Hale's presentment of him—you cannot deny him the tribute which a moth perhaps pays to a lighted lamp. It is a coarse flame, fed on the unstrained oil, but at the same time there is a certain rude joy in creeping close to the fire, and in feeling your limbs grow warm and your brain become passive. The American people, however, find a peculiar and a different comfort in such a sensation, if we are to continue the metaphor, or, to change it, in such a reconciliation. People, forced as they are to do without the luxuries of tradition, must find in themselves a raw material and exalt it above the finished form. People, again, set in the midst of vast lands beneath the shadow of forests and seas have need to worship their own force and resent any belittlement of it. In President Roosevelt, who governs and is the peer of kings, they feel at once a muscular strength which is infinitely reassuring to them, and a huge indiscriminate power, equally distributed over the whole of him, which makes him the reconciliation of innumerable qualities, the starting-point of all their energies. Every virtue is possible, no other way of life surpasses theirs, when there is one who recognises in his own person and in the persons of others the sufficiency of their native gifts for all aims that a human being need pursue. They welcome him as the accurate type of their soul, flung off by nature in an impetuous mood, and claim for it that it is made after the original pattern, and fashioned out of the pure clay.
Metuentes patruae verbera linguae.—HoRACE.
THERE is a familiar proverb, more true than many, which charges human nature with the meanness of hanging the dog to which it has chosen to give a bad name. The applicability of this saying to the arbitrary allotment of so-called Christian names must have occurred, with pain, to every person of sensibility. To be helplessly labelled with a character in one's first infancy, is to be taxed without representation in the most tyrannical sense. For that is what it amounts to. Prescriptive sentiment, based upon the aggregates of qualities observed in the holders of certain names, obliges every Tom, Dick or Harry to adapt his conduct to the part assigned him at his baptism. Tom henceforth can never be Dick, or Harry Tom, in all the life to come. To each is inalienably affixed the qualities associated with his title. Here is a fact, I fancy, patent to every inventor of fictitious persons. Your novelist, excogitating an individuality, must surrender himself, during the process, to a sort of trance, when the fitting name for that individual will occur to him without any effort of his own. Otherwise, supposing that he has predilections in the matter of nomenclature, his selection, fond as it may appear, will commit him mercilessly to developments utterly undesigned by him at the outset. Thus, say, I have a weakness for Augustus, but my theme is the psychology of a grand but unlawful passion. It is obvious that the two are irreconcilable. Augustus is quite incapable of such flights. He is too regardful of his own safety and creature-comforts. He is a petted flabby fellow, a little inclined to over-eating, and is not unwont to shed oily tears of self-pity when his stomach is so full that it presses upon his heart. If I persist, he will come to make a muddle of the business, and—unless the critics read profundity out of my perplexity, which is always possible—will confound the whole course of my character-study. In the end he will prefer celibacy and tepid baths to that stinging plunge into the waters of passion which I had forecast. Adolphus again 7 What manly attributes are to be looked for in that conceited and self-complacent puppy 7. He has been spoilt by his mother and sisters from the first, and is no more capable of the strength and nobility shown by Norman or Rupert than he is of the saintly self-sacrifices peculiar to Basil. Albert— with all respect be it said—is good and temperate until he becomes Bertie, when he is inclined to trifle weakly with other men's wives; while as Bert he is extremely suitable to the lower form of lioncomique. Arnold is a forcible creature, withal rather bigoted and prosy; Claud, of course, is an artist; Philip is weak, but means well, while Roger is dissipated, with only a fitful desire to reform. Dick drinks shamelessly, but is a good fellow in or out of his cups; Tom is an athlete and philistine, and Harry is apprenticed to an engineer. Algernon can fight nobly for his country, but goes all to pieces when he is abbreviated, and Francis is a red-haired foxy little man, full of guile and cunning, but utterly redeemed when shortened.
Among the women, Annabel is old-fashioned and knits, Bridget cooks, Caroline marries and has pretty children, and Kate is capable of anything but ugliness.
These are but a few, chosen at random. The point is that they and all the rest are characters hall-marked at their christening —a system which, while imposing a limit on human development, has the much more serious consequence of tying the hands of the novelist, of whom everything is expected in these days. Yet how can the poor fellow expand his psychology beyond the types to which he is restricted by the godfathers and godmothers ? There are only two ways which I can see : one, to enlarge enormously the list of legitimate names; two, to postpone their individual choice until each unit is of an age to select, or invent, his own.
Now, as illustrating my contention—that no person, historical or fictitious, could conceivably have been exactly what he was in any other name than his own—consider, pray, the following purely arbitrary list:
ALOYSIUS JOHNSON . - . The great lexicographer.
AGNES SHARP . - - . Heroine by default of “Vanity Fair."
HARRY Holmes . - - . Private Inquiry Agent.
MONTAGUE BURNS , - . Labour Leader.
BERT KIPLING . - - . Writer to the Empire.
FRANK WELLESLEY . - . Great Duke of Wellington.