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The business of the one is to depopulate kingdoms, the business of the other to reap beards seven days old; but their relative positions do not affect the question.The one works with razors and soap-lather the other with battle-cries and well-greaved Greeks.
A quick ear and eye, an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things, a brooding meditative spirit, are all that the essayist requires to start business with.
Jacques, in “As You Like It,” had the makings of a charming essayist.
I find everything here that other men find in the big world. Give the mood, and the essay, from the first sentence to the last, grows around it as the cocoon grows around the silkworm.
The essay-writer is a chartered libertine, and a law unto himself.
He dazzles the crowd—all very fine; but look beneath his splendid trappings and you see a shirt of mail, and beneath a heart cowering in terror of an air-drawn dagger.
Whom did the memory of Austerlitz most keenly sting? or the mighty Napoleon, dying like an untended watch-fire on St. Giddy people may think the life I lead here staid and humdrum, but they are mistaken.The coarse rich man rates his domestic, but there is a thought in the domestic’s brain, docile and respectful as he looks, which makes the matter equal, which would madden the rich man if he knew it—make him wince as with a shrewdest twinge of hereditary gout.For insult and degradation are not without their peculiar solaces.Bruin in winter-time fondly sucking his own paws, loses flesh; and love, feeding upon itself, dies of inanition.Take the candle of death in your hand, and walk through the stately galleries of the world, and their splendid furniture and array are as the tinsel armour and pasteboard goblets of a penny theatre; fame is but an inscription on a grave, and glory the melancholy blazon on a coffin lid. One insists that she is found in the cottage which the hawthorn shades.Skylarks are primarily created to sing, although a whole choir of them may be baked in pies and brought to table; they were born to make music, although they may incidentally stay the pangs of vulgar hunger.The essayist is a kind of poet in prose, and if questioned harshly as to his uses, he might be unable to render a better apology for his existence than a flower might.The one of a Saturday night counts up his shabby gains and grumbles; the other on Saturday night sits down and weeps for other worlds to conquer. Suddlechops are as important as are the worlds to Alexander.Every condition of life has its peculiar advantages, and wisdom points these out and is contented with them.Another that she is a lady of fashion, and treads on cloth of gold.Wisdom, listening to both, shakes a white head, and considers that “a good deal may be said on both sides.” There is a wise saying to the effect that “a man can eat no more than he can hold.” Every man gets about the same satisfaction out of life. Suddlechops, the barber of Seven Dials, is as happy as Alexander at the head of his legions.