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unhappy ; a very simple remark, no doubt ; but just because it so simple
I have never been able to forget it, even though it is in the last degree a
truism. So, if cheerfulness knocks at our door, we should throw it wide
open, for it never comes inopportunely ; instead of that, we often make
scruples about letting it in. We want to be quite sure that we have
every reason to be contented ; then we are afraid that cheerfulness of
spirits may interfere with serious reflections or weighty cares. Cheerful-
ness is a direct and immediate gain, the very coin, as it were, of happi-
ness, and not, like all else, merely a cheque upon the bank ; for it alone
makes us immediately happy in the present moment, and that is the
highest blessing for beings like us, whose existence is but an infinitesimal
moment between two eternities. To secure and promote this feeling of
cheerfulness should be the supreme aim of all our endeavors after happi-

Now it is certain that nothing contributes so little to cheerfulness as
riches, or so much, as health. Is it not in the lower classes, the so-
called working classes, more especially those of them who live in the
country, that we see cheerful and contented faces ? and is it not amongst
the rich, the upper classes, that we find faces full of ill-humor and vexa-
tion ? Consequently we should try as much as possible to maintain a
high degree of health ; for cheerfulness is the very flower of it I need
hardly say what one must do to be healthy avoid every kind of excess,
all violent and unpleasant emotion, all mental overstrain, take daily
exercise in the open air, cold baths and such like hygienic measures.
For without a proper amount of daily exercise no one can remain healthy ;
all the processes of life demand exercise for the due performance of their
functions, exercise not only of the parts more immediately concerned, but
also of the whole body. For, as Aristotle rightly says, Life is movement;
it is its very essence. Ceaseless and rapid motion goes on in every part
of the organism. The heart, with its complicated double systole and
diastole, beats strongly and untiringly ; with twenty-eight beats it has to
drive the whole of the blood through arteries, veins and capillarie* ; the



lungs pump like a steam-engine, without intermission ; the intestines are
always in peristaltic action ; the glands are all constantly absorbing and
secreting j even the brain has a double motion of its own, with every
beat of the pulse and every breath we draw. When people can get no
exercise at all, as is the case with the countless numbers who are con-
demned to a sedentary life, there is a glaring and fatal disproportion
between outward inactivity and inner tumult. For this ceaseless interna'
motion requires some external counterpart, and the want of it produces
effects like those of emotion which we are obliged to suppress. Even
trees must be shaken by the wind, if they are to thrive. The rule which
finds its application here may be most briefly expressed in Latin : omnis
molus, quo celerior, eo magis motus.

How much our happiness depends upon our spirits, and these again
upon our state of health, may be seen by comparing the influence which
the same external circumstances or events have upon us when we are
well and strong with the effect which they have when we are depressed
and troubled with ill-health. It is not what things are objectively and in
themselves, but what they are for us, in our way of looking at them, that
makes us happy or the reverse. As Epictetus says, Men are not influenced
by things but by their thoughts about things. And in general, nine-tenths of
our happiness depends upon health alone. With health, everything is a
source of pleasure ; without it, nothing else, whatever it may be, is enjoy-
able ; even the other personal blessings, a great mind, a happy tempera-
ment are degraded and dwarfed for want of it So it is really with good
reason that, when two people meet, the first thing they do is to inquire
after each other's health, and to express the hope that it is good ; for
good health is by far the most important element in human happiness.
It follows from all this that the greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for
any other kind of happiness, whatever it may be, for gain, advancement,
learning or fame, let alone, then for fleeting sensual pleasures. Every-
thing else should rather be postponed to it.

But however much health may contribute to that flow of good spirits
which is so essential to our happiness, good spirits do not entirely depend
upon health ; for a man may be perfectly sound in his physique and still
possess a melancholy temperament and be generally given up to sad
thoughts. The ultimate cause of this is undoubtedly to be found in innate,
and therefore unalterable, physical constitution, especially in the more or
less normal relation of a man's sensitiveness to his muscular and vital
energy. Abnormal sensitiveness produces inequality of spirits, a predomi-
nating melancholy, with periodical fits of unrestrained liveliness. A genius
is one whose nervous power or sensitiveness is largely in excess ; as Aris-
totle > has very correctly observed, Men distinguished in philosophy, politics,
poetry or art, appear to be all of a melancholy temperament. This is doubt-
less the passage which Cicero has in his mind when he says, as be often

1 Probl, xxx, ep. i.


does, Aristoteles ait omnes ingeniosos melancholicos esse. ' Shakespeare has
very neatly expressed this radical and innate diversity of temperament 10
those lines in The Merchant of Venice :

Nature has framed strange fellows in her time;
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh, like parrots at a bag-piper;
And others of such vinegar aspect,
That they' II not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

This is the difference which Plato draws between evxoAoS and SvteoXol
the man of easy, and the man of difficult disposition in proof of which
he refers to the varying degrees of susceptibility which different people
show to pleasurable and painful impressions ; so that one man will laugh
at what makes another despair. As a rule, the stronger the susceptibility
to unpleasant impressions, the weaker is the susceptibility to pleasant
ones, and vice versa. If it is equally possible for an event to turn out
well or ill, the dvtixolos will be annoyed or grieved if the issue is
unfavorable, and will not rejoice, should it be happy. On the other
hand, the *o/los will neither worry nor fret over an unfavorable
issue, but rejoice if it turns out well. If the one is successful in
nine out of ten undertakings, he will not be pleased, but rather annoyed
that one has miscarried ; whilst the other, if only a single one succeeds,
will manage to find consolation in the fact and remain cheerful. But
here is another instance of the truth, that hardly any evil is entirely with-
out its compensation ; for the misfortunes and sufferings which the
SvtiHoA.01, that is, people of gloomy and anxious character, have to over-
come, are, on the whole, more imaginary and therefore less real than
those which befall the gay and careless ; for a man who paints everything
black, who constantly fears the worst and takes measures accordingly,
will not be disappointed so often in this world, as one who always looks
upon the bright side of things. And when a morbid affection of the
nerves, or a derangement of the digestive organs, plays into the hand of
an innate tendency to gloom, this tendency may reach such a height that
permanent discomfort produces a weariness of life. So arises an inclina-
tion to suicide, which even the most trivial unpleasantness may actually
bring about ; nay, when the tendency attains its worst form, it may be
occasioned by nothing in particular, but a man may rosolve to put an
end to his existence, simply because he is permanently unhappy, and then
coolly and firmly carry out his determination ; as may be seen by the way
in which the sufferer, when placed under supervision, as he usually is,
eagerly waits to seize the first unguarded moment, when, without a shud-
der, without a struggle or recoil, he may use the now natural and wel-
come means of effecting his release.* Even the healthiest, perhaps even

iTusc. i., 33.

I For a detailed description of this condition of mind ef. Esquirol Des maladies mentales,



the most cheerful man, may resolve upon death under certain circumstan-
ces ; when, for instance, his sufferings, or his fears of some inevitable
misfortune, reach such a pitch as to outweigh the terrors of death. The
only difference lies in the degree of suffering necessary to bring about
the fatal act, a degree which will be high in the case of a cheerful, and
low in that of a gloomy man. The greater the melancholy, the lower
need the degree be ; in the end it may even sink to zero. But if a man
is cheerful, and his spirits are supported by good health, it requires a high
degree of suffering to make him lay hands upon himself. There are count-
less steps in the scale between the two extremes of suicide, the suicide
which springs merely from a morbid intensification of innate gloom,
and the suicide of the healthy and cheerful man, who has entirely
objective grounds for putting an end to his existence.

Beauty is partly an affair of health. It may be reckoned as a personal
advantage ; though it does not, properly speaking, contribute directly to
our happiness. It does so indirectly, by impressing other people ; and it
is no unimportant advantage, even in man. Beauty is an open letter of
recommendation, predisposing the heart to favor the person who presents
it. As is well said in those lines of Homer, the gift of beauty is not
lightly to be thrown away, that glorious gift which none can bestow save
the gods alone

ovroi ditofiXijT k<Srl QeoSr iptxvSetx daopa,
5<5<3a xev avrol a>6iv y ixcov S'ovx av riS

The most general survey shows us that the two foes of human happi-
ness are pain and boredom. We may go further, and say that in the
degree in which we are fortunate enough to get away from the one, we
approach the other. Life presents, in fact, a more or less violent oscil-
lation between the two. The reason of this is that each of these two
poles stands in a double antagonism to the other, external or objective,
and inner or subjective. Needy surroundings and poverty produce pain ;
while, if a man is more than well off, he is bored. Accordingly, while
the lower classes are engaged in a ceaseless struggle with need, in other
words, with pain, the upper carry on a constant and often desperate
battle with boredom. 8 The inner or subjective antagonism arises from
the fact that, in the individual, susceptibility to pain varies inversely with
susceptibility to boredom, because susceptibility is directly proportionate
to mental power. Let me explain. A dull mind is, as a rule associated
with dull sensibilities, nerves which no stimulus can affect, a tempera-
ment, in short, which does not feel pain or anxiety very much, however
great or terrible it may be. Now, intellectual dulness is at the bottom of

I Iliad 3, 65.

And the extremes meet ; for the lowest state of civilization, a nomad or wandering
ife finds its counterpart in the highest, where everyone is at times a tourist The
her stage was a case of necessity ; the latter is a remedy for boredom.



that vacuity of soul which is stamped on so many faces, a state of mind
which betrays itself by a constant and lively attention to all the trivial
circumstances in the external world. This is the true source of boredom
a continual panting after excitement, in order to have a pretext for giv-
ing the mind and spirits something to occupy them. The kind of things
people choose for this purpose shows that they are not very particular, as
witness the miserable pastimes they have recourse to, and their ideas of
social pleasure and conversation : or again, the number of people who
gossip on the doorstep or gape out of the window. It is mainly because
of this inner vacuity of soul that people go in quest of society, diversion,
amusement, luxury of every sort, which lead many to extravagance and
misery. Nothing is so good a protection against such misery as inward
wealth, the wealth of the mind, because the greater it grows, the less
room it leaves for boredom. The inexhaustible activity of thought 1
finding ever new material to work upon in the multifarious phenomena
of self and nature, and able and ready to form new combinations of them,
there you have something that invigorates the mind, and apart from
moments of relaxation, sets it far above the reach of boredom.

But on the other hand, this high degree of intelligence is rooted in a
high degree of susceptibility, greater strength of will, greater passionate-
ness ; and from the union of these qualities comes an increased capacity
for emotion, an enhanced sensibility to all mental and even bodily pain,
greater impatience of obstacles, greater resentment of interruption ; all
of which tendencies are augmented by the power of the imagination, the
vivid character of the whole range of thought, including what is disagree-
able. This applies, in varying degrees, to every step in the long scale of
mental power, from the veriest dunce to the greatest genius that ever
lived. Therefore the nearer anyone is, either from a subjective or from
an objective point of view, to one of these sources of suffering in human
life, the farther he is from the other. And so a man's natural bend will
lead him to make his objective world conform to his subjective as much
as possible ; that is to say, he will take the greatest measures against that
form of suffering to which he is most liable. The wise man will, above
all, strive after freedom from pain and annoyance, quiet and leisure,
consequently a tranquil, modest life, with as few encounters as may be ;
and so, after a little experience of his so-called fellow-men, he will elect
to live in retirement, or even, if he is a man of great intellect, in solitude.
For the more a man has in himself, the less he will want from other peo-
ple, the less, indeed, other people can be to him. This is why a high
degree of intellect tends to make a man unsocial. True, if qualify of
intellect could be made up for by quantify, it might be worth while to live
even in the great world ; but unfortunately, a hundred fools together will
not make one wise man.

But the individual who stands at the other end of the scale is no
sooner free from the pangs of need than he endeavors to get pastime and



society at any cost, taking up with the first person he meets, and avoiding
nothing so much as himself. For in solitude, where everyone is thrown
upon his own resources, what a man has in himself comes to light : the
fool in fine raiment groans under the burden of his miserable personality,
a burden which he can never throw off, whilst the man of talent peoples
the waste places with his animating thoughts. Seneca declares that folly
is its own burden, omnis stultitia laborat fastidio sui, a very true saying,
with which may be compared the words of Jesus, the son of Sirach, The
life of a fool is worse than death. 1 And, as a rule, it will be found that a
man is sociable just in the degree in which he is intellectually poor and
generally vulgar. For one's choice in this world does not go much
beyond solitude on one side and vulgarity on the other. It is said that
the most sociable of all people are the negroes ; and they are at the
bottom of the scale in intellect. I remember reading once in a French
paper * that the blacks in North America, whether free or enslaved, are
fond of shutting themselves up in large numbers in the smallest space,
because they cannot have too much of one another's snub-nosed com-

The brain may be regarded as a kind of parasite of the organism, a
pensioner, as it were, who dwells with the body : and leisure, that is, the
time one has for the free enjoyment of one's consciousness or individual-
ity, is the fruit or produce of the rest of existence, which is in general only
labor and effort. But what does most people's leisure yield ? boredom
and dulness ; except, of course, when it is occupied with sensual pleasure
or folly. How little such leisure is worth may be seen in the way in
which it is spent : and, as Ariosto observes, how miserable are the idle
hours of ignorant men ! ozio lungo d'uomini ignoranti. Ordinary people
think merely how they shall spend their time ; a man of any talent tries
to use it. The reason why people of limited intellect are apt to be bored is
that their intellect is absolutely nothing more than the means by which
the motive power of the will is put into force : and whenever there is
nothing particular to set the will in motion, it rests, and their intellect
takes a holiday, because, equally with the will, it requires something
external to bring it into play. The result is an awful stagnation of what-
ever power a man has in a word, boredom. To counteract this miser-
able feeling, men run to trivialities which please for the moment they are
taken up, hoping thus to engage the will in order to rouse it to action,
and so set the intellect in motion ; for it is the latter which has to give
effect to these motives of the will. Compared with real and natural
motives, these are but as paper money to coin ; for their value is only
arbitrary card games and the like, which have been invented for this
very purpose. And if there is nothing else to be done, a man will twirl
his thumbs or beat the devil's tattoo ; or a cigar may be a welcome sub-
stitute for exercising his brains. Hence, in all countries the chief occu-

1 Ecclesiasticus, xxii, II. * Le Commerce, Oct. igth, 1837.



pation of society is card playing, ' and it is the gauge of its value, and an
outward sign that it is bankrupt in thought. Because people have no
thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, and try and win one another's
money. Idiots ! But I do not wish to be unjust ; so let me remark
that it may certainly be said in defence of card playing that it is a prepa-
ration for the world and for business life, because one learns thereby how
to make a clever use of fortuitous but unalterable circumstances (cards,
in this case), and to get as much out of them as one can : and to do this
a man must learn a little dissimulation, and how to put a good face upon
a bad business. But on the other hand, it is exactly for this reason that
card playing is so demoralizing, since the whole object of it is to employ
every kind of trick and machination in order to win what belongs to
another. And a habit of this sort, learnt at the card table, strikes root
and pushes its way into practical life ; and in the affairs of every day a
man gradually comes to regard meum and tuum in much the same light
as cards, and to consider that he may use to the utmost whatever advan-
tages he possessed, so long as he does not come within the arm of the
law. Examples of what I mean are of daily occurrence in mercantile life.
Since, then, leisure is the flower, or rather the fruit, of existence, as it
puts a man into possession of himself, those are happy indeed who pos-
sess something real in themselves. But what do you get from most peo-
ple's leisure ? only a good-for-nothing fellow, who is terribly bored and
a burden to himself. Let us therefore, rejoice, dear brethren, for we are
not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Further, as no land is so well off as that which requires few imports,
or none at all, so the happiest man is one who has enough in his own
inner wealth, and requires little or nothing from outside for his mainte-
nance, for imports are expensive things, reveal dependence, entail danger,
occasion trouble, and when all is said and done, are a poor substitute for
home produce. No man ought to expect much from others, or, in gen-
eral, from the external world. What one human being can be to another
is not a very great deal : in the end every one stands alone, and the
important thing is who it is that stands alone. Here, then, is another
application of the general truth which Goethe recognizes in Dichtung und
Wahrheit (Bk. III.), that in everything a man has ultimately to appeal to
himself ; or, as Goldsmith puts it in 'The Traveler :.

Still to ourselves in every place consigned
Our own felicity we make or find.

Himself is the source of the best and most a man can be or achieve.
The more this is so the more a man finds his sources of pleasure in him-

Translator's Note. Card playing to this extent is now, no doubt, a thing of the
past, at any rate amongst the nations of northern Europe. The present fashion is rather
in favor of a dilettante interest in art or literature.



self the happier he will be. Therefore, it is with great truth that
Aristotle 1 says, To be hapfy means to be self-sufficient. For all other sources
of happiness are in their nature most uncertain, precarious, fleeting, the
sport of chance ; and so even under the most favorable circumstances
they can easily be exhausted ; nay, this is unavoidable, because they are
not always within reach. And in old age these sources of happiness
must necessarily dry up : love leaves us then, and wit, desire to travel,
delight in horses, aptitude for social intercourse ; friends and relations,
too, are taken from us by death. Then more than ever, it depends upon
what a man has in himself ; for this will stick to him longest ; and at
any period of life it is the only genuine and lasting source of happiness.
There is not much to be got anywhere in the world. It is filled with
misery and pain ; and if a man escapes these, boredom lies in wait for
him at every corner. Nay more ; it is evil which generally has the upper
hand, and folly makes the most noise. Fate is cruel, and mankind
pitiable. In such a world as this, a man who is rich in himself is like a
bright, warm, happy room at Christmastide, while without are the frost
and snow of a December night. Therefore, without doubt, the happiest
destiny on earth is to have the rare gift of a rich individuality, and, more
especially, to be possessed of a good endowment of intellect ; this is the
happiest destiny, though it may not be, after all, a very brilliant one.
There was great wisdom in that remark which Queen Christina of Sweden
made, in her nineteenth year, about Descartes, who had then lived for
twenty years in the deepest solitude in Holland, and, apart from report,
was known to her only by a single essay : M. Descartes, she said, is the
happiest of 'men , and his condition seems to me much to be envied. * Of course,
as was the case with Descartes, external circumstances must be favorable
enough to allow a man to be master of his life and happiness ; or as we
read in Ecclest'astes, 3 Wisdom is good together with an inheritance, and profit-
able unto them that see the sun. The man to whom nature and fate have
granted the blessing of wisdom, will be most anxious and careful to keep
open the fountains of happiness which he has in himself; and for this
independence and leisure are necessary. To obtain them, he will be
willing to moderate his desires and harbor his resources, all the more
because he is not, like others, restricted to the external world for his
pleasures. So he will not be misled by expectations of office, or money,
or the favor and applause of his fellow-men, into surrendering himself in
order to conform to low desires and vulgar tastes ; nay, in such a case he
will follow the advice that Horace gives in his epistle to Maecenas. 4 It
is a great piece of folly to sacrifice the inner for the outer man, to give
the whole or the greater part of one's quiet leisure and independence for

i Eth. Eud., yii. a. *Viede Descartes, par Baillet. Liv. vii., ch. IO.
vii. 12. 4 Lib. I. ep. y.

Nee somnum plebis laudo, satur alt ilium, tut
Otia divitiis Arabum liberrima mute,


splendor, rank, pomp, titles and honor. This is what Goethe did. My
good luck drew me quite in the other direction.

The truth which I am insisting upon here, the truth, namely, that the
chief source of human happiness is internal, is confirmed by that most
accurate observation of Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics, l that every
pleasure presupposes some sort of activity, the application of some sort of

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