Andrew Kennedy Hutchison] [Boyd.

The every-day philosopher in town and country online

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deserves it no more than various other sad dogs who
pass scot free. Over all events, all means and ends ia
this world, there rules God's inscrutable sovereignty.
And to our view, that direction appears quite ar-
bitrary. " One shall be taken, and the other left."
"Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.*' " Math
not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump
to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto
dishonor ? " A sarcastic London periodical lately


declared that the way to attain eminence in a certain
walk of life, was to "combine mediocrity of taUnt with
family affliction." And it is possible that instances
might be indicated in wiiich that combination led to
very considerable position. But there are many more
cases in which the two things coexisted in a very high
degree, without leading to any advancement whatso-
ever. It is all luck again.

A way in which small men sometimes Get On, is
by finding ways to be helpful to bigger men. Those
bigger men have occasional opportunities of helping
those who have been helpful to them. If you your-
self, or some near relation of yours, yield effectual
support to a candidate at a keenly-contested county
election, you may possibly be repaid by influence in
your flivor brouglit to bear upon the Government of
the day. From a bishopric down to a beadleship, I
have known such means serve valuable ends. It is a
great thing to have any link, however humble, and
however remote, that connects you with a Secretary
of State, or any member of the Administration. Pol-
itical tergiversation is a great thing. Judicious rat-
ting, at a critical period, will generally secure some
one considerable reward. In a conservative institu-
tion to stand almost alone in professing very liberal
opinions ; or in a liberal institution to stand almost
alone in professing conservative opinions ; will prob-
ably cause you to Get On. The leaders of parties are
likely to reward those who among the faithless are


faithful to them ; and -who hold by them under diffi.
culties. Still, luck comes in h^re. While some will
attain great rewards by professing opinions very in-
consistent with their position, others by doing the same
things merely bring themselves into universal ridicule
and contempt. It is a powerful thing, to have abun-
dant impudence ; to be quite ready to ask for whatever
you want. Worthier men wait till their merits are
found out ; you don't. You may possibl}' get what
you ask ; and then you may snap your fingers in the
face of the worthier man. By a skilful dodge, A got
something which ought to have come to B. Still, A
can drive in dignity past B, covering him with mud
from his chariot-wheels. There was a man in the last
century who was made a bishop by George III., for
having published a poem on the death of George II.
That poem declared that George II. was removed by
Providence to heaven, because he was too good for this
world. You know what kind of man George II. was ;
you know whether even Bishop Porteus could possibly
have thought he was speaking the truth in publishing
that most despicable piece of toadyism. Yet Bishop
Porteus was really a good man, and died in the odor
of sanctity. He was merely a little yielding. Hon-
esty would have stood in the way of his Getting On ;
and so honesty had to make way for the time. Many
people know that a certain Bishop was to have been
made Archbishop of Canterbury ; but that he threw
away his chance by an act of injudicious honesty. On


one occasion, he opposed the Court, under very strong
conscientious convictions of duty. If he had just sat
still, and refrained from bearing testimony to what he
held for truth, he would have Got On much farther
than he ever did. I am very sure the good man
never regretted that he had acted honestly !

Judicious obscurity is often a reason for advancing
a man. You know nothing to his prejudice. Emi-
nent men have always some enemies ; there are those
who wnll secretly hate them just because they are
eminent ; and no one can say how or when the most
insignificant enemy may have an opportunity to put a
spoke in the wheel, and upset the coach in which an
eminent man is advancing to what would have
crowned his life. While nothing can be more certain
than that if you know nothing at all about a man, you
know no harm of him. There are many people who
will oppose a man seeking for any end, just because
they know him. They don't care about a total stran-
ger gaining the thing desired ; but they cannot bear
that any one they know should reach it. They can-
not make up their mind to that. You remember a
curious fact brought out by Cardinal Wiseman in his
" Lives of the Last Four Popes." There are certain
European kings who have the right to veto a Pope.
Though the choice of the conclave fall on him, these
kings can step in and say. No. They are called to
give no reason. They merely say, Whoever is to be
Pope, it shall not be that man. And the Cardinal


shows us, that as surely as any man seems likely to
be elected Pope who has ever been Papal Ambassa-
dor at the court of any of those kings, so surely does
the king at M-hose court he was veto him ! In shorf,
the king is a man ; and he cannot bear tliat any one
he knows should be raised to the mystical dignity of
the Papacy. But the monarch has no objection to
the election of a man whom he knows nothing about.
And as the more eminent cardinals are sure to have
become known, more or less intimately, to all the
kings who have the right to veto, the man elected
Pope is generally a very obscure and insignificant
Cardinal. • Then there is a pleasant feeling of superi-
ority and patronage in advancing a small man, a man
smaller than yourself. You may have known men
who were a good deal consulted as to the filling up of
vacant offices in their own profession, who made it
their rule strongly to recommend men whose talent
was that of decent mediocrity, and never to mention
men of really shining ability. And if you suggest to
them the names of two or three persons of very high
qualifications, as suitable to fill the vacant place, you
will find the most vigorous methods instantly em-
ployed to make sure that whoever may be success-
ful, it shall not be one of these. " Oh, he would
never do ! "

It is worth remembering, as further proof, how little
you can count on any means certainly conducing to
the end of Getting On, that the most opposite courses


of conduct have led men to great success. To be the
toadj of a great man is a familiar art of self-advance-
ment. There once was a person who by doing ex-
tremely dirty work for a notorious peer, attained a
considerable place in the government of this counti*y.
But it is a question of luck, after all. Sometimes it
has been the making of a man, to insult a Duke, or to
bully a Chief Justice. It made him a popular favorite ;
it enlisted general sympathy on his side ; it gained him
credit for nerve and courage. But public feeling, and
the feeling of the dispensers of patronage in all walks
of life, oscillates so much, that at different times, the
most contradictory qualities may commend a- man for
preferment. You may have known a man who was
much favored by those in power, though he was an
extremely outspoken, injudicious, and almost reckless
person. It is only at rare intervals that such a man
finds favor ; a grave, steady, and reliable man, who
will never say or do anything outrageous, is for the
most part preferred. And now and then you may find
a highly cultivated congregation, wearied by having had
for its minister for many years a remarkably correct
and judicious though tiresome preacher, making choice
for his successor of a brilliant and startling orator,
very deficient in taste and sense. A man's luck, in all
these cases, will appear, if it bring him into notice just
at the time when his special characteristics are held
in most estimation. If for some specific purpose, you
desire to have a horse which has only three legs, it is


plain that if two horses present themselves for your
choice, one with three legs and the other with four,
you will select and prefer the animal with three. It
will be the best, so far as it concerns you. And its
good luck will appear in this : that it has come to your
notice just when your liking happened to be a some-
what peculiar one. In like manner, you may find
people say, In filling up this place at the present time,
we don't want a clever man, or a well-informed man,
or an accomplished and presentable man ; we want a
meek man, a humble man, a man who will take snub-
bing freely, a rough man, a man like ourselves. And
I have known many cases, in which, of several com-
petitors, one v/as selected ju>t for the possession or
qualities which testified his inferiority to the others.
But then, in this case, that which was absolutely the
worst, was the best for the particular case. The people
wanted a horse with three legs, and when such i\n ani-
mal presented itself they very naturally preferred him
to the other horses which had four legs. The horses
with four legs naturally complained of the choice, and
thought themselves badly used when the screw was
taken in preference. They were wrong. There are
places for which a rough man is better than a smooth
one; a dirty man than a clean one; in the judgment
(that is) of the people who have the filling up of the
place. I certainly think their judgment is wrong. But
it is their judgment, and of course they act ui)on it.
As regards the attainment of very great and unusual


wealth, by business or the like, it is very plain how
much there is of luck. A certain degree of business
talent is of course necessary, in the man who rises in a
few years from nothing to enormous wealth ; but it is
Providence that says who shall draw the great prize j
for other men with just as much ability and industry
entirely fail. Talent and industry in business may
make sure, unless in very extraordinary circumstances,
of decent success ; but Providence fixes who shall make
four hundred thousand a year. The race is not to the
swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to men of
understanding ; that is, their riches are not necessarily
in proportion to their understanding. Trickery and
cheating, not crossed by ill-luck, may gain great wealth.
I shall not name several instances which will occur to
every one. But I suppose, my friend, that you and
I w^ould cut off our right hand before we should Get
On in worldly wealth by such means as these. You
must make up your mind, however, that you will not
be envious when you see the fine house, and the horses
and carriages of some successful trickster. All this
indeed might have been had ; but you would not have
it at the price. That worldly success is a great deal
too dear, which is to be gained only by sullying your
integrity ! And I gladly believe that I know many
men, w'hom no material bribe would tempt to Avhat is
mean or dishonest.

There is something curious in the feeling which
many people cherish towards an acquaintance who be-

GETTING 01^. 211

comes a successful man. Getting On gives some people
mortal offence. To them, success is an unpardonable
crime. Thej absolutely hate the man that Gets On.
Timon, you remember, lost the affection of those who
knew him, when he was ruined ; but depend upon it,
there are those who would have hated Timon much
worse had he suddenly met some great piece of good
fortune. I have already said that these envious and
malicious people can better bear the success of a man
whom they do not know. They cannot stand it, when
an old school-companion shoots ahead. They cannot
stand it, when a man in their own profession attains to
eminence. They diligently thwart such an one's plans,
and then chuckle over their failure, saying, with looks
of deadly malice, " Ah, this will do him a gi-eat deal
of good!"

But now, my reader, I am about to stop. Let me
briefly sum up my philosophy of Getting On. It is
this : A wise man in this world will not set his heart
on Getting On, and will not push very much to Get
On. He will do his best, and humbly take with
thankfulness what the Hand above sends him. It is
not worth while to push. The whole machinery that
tends to earthly success, is so capricious and uncertain
in its action, that no man can count upon it, and»no
wise man will. A chance word, a look, the turning of
a straw, may make your success or mar it. A man
meets you on the street and says, Who is the person


for such a place, great or small ? You suddenly think
of somebody, and say He is your man, and the thing
is settled. A hundred poor fellows are disappointed.
You did not know about them, or their nnmes did not
occur to you. You put your hand into a hat, and drew
out a name. You stuck a hook into your memory, and
this name came out. And that has made the man's
fortune. And the upshot of the whole matter is, that
such an infinitude of little fortuitous circumstances
may either further or prevent our Getting On ; the
■whole game is so complicated, that the right and happy
course is humbly to do your duty and leave the issue
with God. Let me say it again : " Seekest thou great
things for thyself? Seek them not! " It is not worth
while. All your seeking will not make you sure of
getting them ; the only things you will make sure of
will be fever and toil and suspense. We shall not
push, or scheme, or dodge, for worldly success. We
shall succeed exactly as well, and we shall save our-
selves much that is wearisome and degrading. Let us
trust in God, my friend, and do right ; and we shall
Get On as much as He thinks good for us. And it is
not the greatest thing to Get On. I mean, to Get On
in matters that begin and end upon this world. There
is a progress in which we are sure of success, if we
eaiTiestly aim at it; which is the best Getting On of
all. Let us " grow in grace." Let us try by God's
aid to grow better, kinder, humbler, more patient, more
earnest to do good to all. If the germ of the better


life be implanted in us bj the Blessed Spirit, and
tended by Him day by day; if we trust our Saviour
and love our God, then our whole existence, here and
hereafter, will be a glorious progress from good to
better. We shall always be Getting On!


'UST a quarter of an hour ago, an aged
man, the most intelligent and pleasant of
hostlers, zealous in Methodism, and skilled
in the characteristics of horses, said to
the present writer, " Stand on that rock." And as he
said the words, he pointed to a little flat expanse of
granite, three or four feet square. The present writer
obeyed. And then the aged and intelligent man added,
emphatically and solemnly, " Now, sir, you are stand-
ing on The Land's Hend."

When I used continually to read the life of that
great and good man. Dr. Arnold, (to whom, and to
whose biographer, many thousands of human beings
owe some of the most healthful influence that ever
went to ameliorate their heart and life,N I remember
thinking, a good many times, that one subject in a list
of subjects for English verses to be prescribed to the
boys of the sixth class, was a most suggestive one. It
was, as the intelligent reader has anticipated, The
Land's Enid.


One had a vague idea, that a great many fine things
were to be said upon that subject. But if I ever
thought what they were, I am sorry to say that they
have quite vanished from remembrance now. At pres-
ent, I can only look and feel, in a \eij confused
fashion. For this is the Land's End. Here I am, on
the extreme verge of England ; this paper is laid on a
rough granite rock, in a little recess which keeps off
the wind. All this little headland is granite, shattered
and splintered as if by lightning. The granite is in
many places covered with lichens ; and here and there
a bright sprig of heather looks out from a little nook
in which it has been able to root itself. The sea is
roaring eighty feet below. Eighty feet make all the
elevation ; of course the mere height is very poor
when compared with that of many bits of the Scotch
coast. The descent to the sea is perpendicular ; the
sea below is not deep just at this point. Out, a mile
and a half from shore, you might see the Longships
Rocks ; detached islets rising in a line, very sharply
out of the sea, and running up almost into spires. On
one of them is a light-house. Three men live in it. A
few years ago, a young man who had been absent from
his family tor twelve years, came back to visit his old
home hard by. His father was one of the keepers of
the light-house, and as it was his turn to take charge of
the lights that month, he could not come ashore to see
his son till a few days should pass. The morning after
the son's arrival, it was too stormy to go out to the


light-house to visit his father, and he came to this spot
to have as near a view as might be of the place where
his father was. He fell over the rocks and was killed.
It is a touching story ; if you cannot see why, I need
not attempt to show you.

Oflf on the right, at three miles' distance, is a black-
looking promontory, called Cape Cornwall. When you
visit the place, my reader, the old man will tell you it
is the only cape in England. There are heads ; there
are points ; there is a ness ; but there is no other cape.
You would think that Cape Cornwall reaches into the
sea farther than the Land's End itself ; but your eye
deceives you. It falls short of its more famous neigh-
bor by several hundred yards. Looking down from
this recess, you may see a number of rocks, greater
and less, rising out of the sea ; each with a ring of
white foam at its base. Far out, you may just trace
the outline of Scilly ; for the day is not very clear.

When you come to this spot, my friend, you will
have all the sights shown you by that most intelligent
old man already mentioned ; that is, of course, if he
and you are spared to meet. You will see, very near
the End, the deep marks of a horse's hoofs in the turf,
within two feet of the verge. A stupid and blustering
idiot once made a bet that he would ride on horseback
to the Land's End ; meaning to the very extremity of
the little rocky headland. He forced his horse down
the steep and rugged descent from the heathery plateau


above, and upon the neck of turf-covered rock that
joins the headland to the shore. But when the horse
reached this slippery neck, he testified how much more
sense he had than the blustering idiot who rode him,
by refusing to go any farther. The blustering idiot
goaded him with whip and spur; and slipping upon
the short turf, the poor creature fell ; and clung by
his fore feet in the marks you see, before making the
awful plunge below. The fall was not into water, but
upon sharp rocks ; and the poor horse miserably per-
ished. I lamented the horse's fate ; and I could not
but conclude that had his master been smashed instead
of himself, the nobler creature of the two would have
been saved ; and the loss to mankind would have been
inappreciably smalL It is fifty-five years since the
horse's hoofs clung to that last hope ; but the deep
marks have been diligently kept clear, and they remain
as when the horse was wickedly killed ; serving as a
monument of his sad fate, and of what a brainless fool
his master was. After standing on the rocky table
which is emphatically styled the Hend, you will clam-
ber down a rough path, and lie down at all your length
on a very overhanging crag. Here your head will
project much over the sea ; and the intelligent old man
will keep a tight hold of your feet. And now, look-
ing away to the right, you will discern the reason why
you were brought to this precarious position. You
will see that the rocky neck joining the End to the
shore, is penetrated clear through by a lofty Gothio


arch, through which the waves fret in foam. You
will be told of another lesser arch, which you cannot
see. These have been worn in the lapse of ages ; and
some day, if the world stands, the superincumbent rock
will fall, and the Land's End will become a little rocky
islet. You can see many traces in the rocks near,
of the like having happened before. Doubtless the
Cornwall coast once reached at least as far seaward as
those Longships Rocks. And coming up from this
spot, you will reach the neck once more ; and here the
old man (skilful hostler and zealous Methodist), if he
thinks you a fit person so to distinguish ; if he sees
you are a man or a woman who can sympathize with
him and understand him ; will point with reverence
to a square block of granite that looks through the
turf; and tell you that a good man whose memory he
holds very dear, and whose memory can be indifferent
to no human being who reverences simple-hearted
devotion to the best good of his fellow-creatures, has
been before you here. " John Wesley stood on that
stone, and made verses of poetry," said the old man to
me ; and I am glad to say that he then went on, with
much simple solemnity, to repeat the verses from end
to end. I doubt not you know them. They are the
verses in which the good man tells us how, standing
physically " between two seas ; " standing on this nar-
row neck with tlie Atlantic chafing on either hand
beneath ; he remembered that he, and every human
being with him, stands morally and spiritually between


two oceans more solemn than that ; and prayed hum-
bly that the pilgrimage might end well for all. The
writer is a churchman ; churchman both by head and
by heart ; but when he heard again the simple lines
(which he confesses struck him as extremely poor
when tried by merely aesthetic rules), he could not
but stand reverentially on the stone where Wesley's
feet had stood ; and think of the old man, with his
white hair, his kindly face, his warm heart, and his
beautifully-starched bands ; and heartily ask, in a
fashion very familiar to us all, for more of Wesley's
single-minded spirit.

And now I have sent the old man away, thanking
him very much for the intelligent and interesting way
in which he told his story; and I wait here by myself.
I have written these lines which you have read, since
he departed. At a spot like this, a party of visitors
along with you is fatal to your feeling the genius of
the place ; and after the most intelligent guide has
told you all he can tell, it is a relief to get rid of him.
I want to feel that I am here. And first, I am aware
that I am not disappointed. I went many miles round
to-day to see the Logan Rock. The Logan Rock is
an imposition. It is a delusion and a snare. You
are told it is a mass of granite weighing eiglity tons ;
and that it is so balanced by nature on a pivot of
stone, that a touch from the hand can make it rock
back and forward. To rock back and forward is
apparently an idea conveyed in Cornish speech by


the verb to log ; and the Rock, though its name be
spelled as above, is called the Loggin Rock, to describe
its nature. .You drive or walk ten miles from Pen-
zance, by fearfully steep roads tlie last miles, till you
come to a very dirty little village at the top of a hill.
I have seldom seen more squalid cottages. I wish I
knew the name of the proprietor of the estate on
which they are built. A man, who has been lounging
about on the road to the village, approaches as you
stop at the door of the neat little inn ; and the driver
of the vehicle which has borne you from Penzance
introduces him as your guide. You follow him along
a well-defined path, through fields of ripening grain,
for about half a mile. Then you come upon a rocky
height, from which you discern the sea below you on
two sides, within two hundred yards. You can indis-
tinctly trace the outline of the walls of an ancient for-
tress upon that rocky height. Then you scramble
down upon a little isthmus, as at the Land's End ; the
isthmus spreads into a little headland, m?\de of huge
blocks of granite. On either hand below you can see
a beach of silvery white sand. As you are scrambling
down the descent to the isthmus, you observe a man
leisurely walking up the opposite ascent ; and you
become aware of the extent to which the division of
labor is carried in that little Cornish village. One
man is your guide to the Rock ; his business is to con-

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Online LibraryAndrew Kennedy Hutchison] [BoydThe every-day philosopher in town and country → online text (page 13 of 19)