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alive through early social evolution by the constant struggle for supremacy. This universal militant attitude has evolved the universal passion of hatred toward rivals, or congenital jealousy, as well as the spirit of glorification over the author of success, that is, over self. In a state of civilization the congenital boastful disposition is curbed, as a child grows older, by a realization of how dependent each member of the community is upon others, and how impossible present achievements would have been without the opportunities prepared by the past. Yet, in the existing maturity of our civilization, if one would seek a manifestation of essentially the same form of brag as that practiced by Shack-Nasty Jim, he could find it on billboards and barn-sides, where the American merchant uses his own portrait as the trade-mark for a brand of chewing-gum. As to this phase of refinement, individual development seems to have been arrested, while the collective and national sense has made progress. One has but to contrast the puerile and blatant national pride, which came to be known as "spread-eagleism," - not as enemies, such as Mrs. Trollope and Dickens, exaggerated it, but as friends, such as Harriet Martineau and Richard Cobden, reluctantly were compelled to rebuke it, with the comparative reticence as to American achievements and the cosmopolitan appreciation of to-day, in order to realize how much, as a people, we have outgrown. But in personal brag, in self-advertising, self-assertiveness, — the passion for being public without any reason for publicity, there crops out, little modified or transformed, the primitive savage vulgarity.
It is not an uncommon experience for a young professional man to be waited upon in his office, and, after an introductory remark or two, have exhibited to him a roll of manuscript, at the head of which he perceives his own name underscored for Runic "caps." After recovering from his astonishment, he glances through a panegyric perfunctory enough to be the work
of an amateur phrenologist. If he be wise and very firm, the author of the production, after withdrawing, will change the title and alter a word here and there, and try it on some other possible aspirant for fame. If, however, the subject be induced first to endure, then pity, then embrace, he will receive, in course of time, a large roll of copies of a sheet of which he may never have heard before his interview with the biography drummer, for which he draws his check in a substantial sum. The question then arises how to dispose of these leaves of immortality. Probably a majority of those who have been tempted and have fallen have sufficient subconscious decency to confine the distribution to their most indulgent friends. Indeed, the degree of progress from the savage state is indicated by whether one does, or does not, refuse to be written up, and, if he consent, by the larger or smaller number of copies that go into the wastebasket instead of the mail. Few people realize how profitable the trade of tickling human vanity is, and how many different forms it employs. There are obscure newspapers and nominal magazines that live by it, and provide good incomes for their editors. It is quite common to find upon centre tables luxuriously bound and printed volumes whose contents consist entirely of fulsome puffs. Each profession, trade, avocation, and association has its library of memorabilia of persons of the kind who, in Lowell's phrase, were created to fill up the world. The writer remembers seeing in the "best room” of a remote farmhouse a morocco-bound, gilt-edged volume upon the notabilities of the country, which contained a biography and engraved portrait of rusticus horribilis himself. The original volunteered the information that his niche in the local pantheon had cost m a sum which, on later conversation, was disclosed to be larger than a year's interest on the mortgage encumbering the farm.
It is very difficult for the example of the modestly refined few to make much impression upon the aspiration for
publicity while the principal didactic agency of the day, the press, constantly stimulates it as the very life of trade. The metropolitan press patronizingly sneers at the columns of trivial personalities in the newspapers published in villages and small towns. Undoubtedly this feature of country journalism, which to a large extent has supplanted the Sunday gossip on the church porch of former times, is ridiculous and contemptible to the last degree. But our great city dailies are as Satan reproving sin. Do they not draw the town with the finest of seines for inane gossip about anybody of the slightest prominence, or trivial events with sensational possibilities? How many columns every day, how many entire pages on the Lord's day, are devoted to the downsittings and uprisings, the dinings, gownings, marryings, and unmarryings of that class of our fellow citizens who pass their lives killing time! The writer was disgusted a few months ago to notice, prominent on the first page of one of the most reputable of great metropolitan dailies, along with news of the Panama Controversy, of elections indicating the trend of sentiment in England, of proceedings in Congress, an item, with conspicuous headlines, that a young so-called "society woman had slipped in going downstairs, and sprained her ankle. This paragraph, so treated, betokened a contempt for journalistic values and proportions, an utter disregard of the ideal of journalism as a responsible public function. No doubt there is great demand for that sort of thing, and there goes with the interest in tittle-tattle about others the craving to be tittle-tattled about one's self. The disease breeds the appetite, and the appetite aggravates the disease.
It is difficult to refine away the exuberance of auto-brag, also because, as with vicarious brag, a certain deliberate fostering of the spirit is proper and necessary. The poor man cannot afford to look seedy; the parvenu tends to become a virulent snob, cutting old friends and even his family lest association with them
compromise the appearance of his present state. The world is in a large measure compelled to take a man at his own estimate of himself. Avoiding the appearance of evil, even a certain parade of the appearance of good, is a necessity, espe cially to those living in large cities. In the great city a man who beats his wife may rank as an ornament of society, while a person of kind heart and philanthropic instincts may pass as a churlish boor because, absent-mindedly, he neglects to nod to acquaintances.
Except as to the most public men, the general estimate and their standing are founded upon very incomplete knowledge, and it is crucially important to be favorably known so far as one is known at all. This truth is so absolutely realized in the business world that an attack upon credit is the unpardonable sin, and the law courts award heavy damages against the traducer. Indeed, respectability is such a potent factor of capital that there are shrewd, cold-blooded persons who systematically contrive to make minor drafts upon it without impairing it seriously. They continually cultivate good appearances, and, when occasion offers, gain small advantages through methods they would not dare employ were it not for a generally good repute. The policy which the French have crystallized in their proverb, noblesse oblige, offers one of the loftiest incentives for human conduct; its converse, that high standing may excuse conscious lapses from virtue, is among the meanest subterfuges of the evil-minded.
Conceding the utility, nay, the necessity, of taking thought that the truth about one be known; admitting the legitimacy, within limitations, of advertising one's goodness as well as one's goods; recognizing the difficulty of drawing the line in close cases between propriety and impropriety; it is nevertheless true that in average human nature there is a tendency toward what indisputably is wanton selfdisplay and blatant self-assertion. Men of entirely ordinary calibre place showwindows in their homes as well as their
shops, and, sitting in the full glare of the electric light, fancy that their adventitious publicity is fame.
It must not be forgotten, however, that at worst we are dealing with a question not of ethics, but of æsthetics, with a natural impulse, which is not essentially evil, but merely has not been brought under such artificial control as ought to have been achieved, considering social refinement in other directions. An age that is inspired and moulded by newspapers displays the characteristic trait of "yellow journalism" in the everyday life of individuals. Brag is egotism spoken or acted out to impress others, and it may be said of egotism, perhaps more than of any other vice, that its viciousness consists in being found out. One who cannot keep his good opinion of himself to himself may be vulgar, but the men of deficient egotism the Hamlets and Dimitri Roudines of real life — are condemned to something worse than vulgarity. It is only a half explanation to say that such men's careers are fruitless because they are mere dreamers. When they dream, they dream of action; and the step from imagination to achievement is stayed by misgiving as to their ability to take it. With the greatest human spirits - Napoleon, Gladstone, Richard Wagner the world has grown accustomed to taking profound egotism as a proper concomitant of genius. On lower planes of genius, and even in ranks of talent and mere cleverness, it is common experience that success is won by the selfconfident egotist. Vanity that cannot be concealed, of course, renders one personally disagreeable, and there is the further, more serious, drawback that extravagant self-appreciation tends to blunt the faculty of self-criticism, which must be the arbiter of the criticism of others and the ultimate source of self-improvement. Nevertheless, the ordinary type of the successful person is one who manages to profit by lessons of adversity so far as to avoid former mistakes, without serious inroads on self-idealization. Incidental failures lead to modifications of effort
or deviations of path without undermining faith in his puissant star. The indefatigable egotist will assert and thrust himself until he half blunders, half breaks, into the sphere for which the resultant of such faculties as he has best adapts him. He would be short-sighted indeed who counseled a general policy of rigid selfanalysis and the extirpation of egotism. What is needed is the frowning down of parade of the raw instinct of ambition, — of the propensity to public self-assertion, though it stands for nothing of worthy accomplishment, and ends with mere publicity.
Outside of utilitarian ends, and in the interest of one's purely subjective life, self-optimism is a great desideratum. After an hour of self-forgetfulness in congenial society, after an evening of surrender to the illusion of a Wagner musicdrama, with what a depressing feeling of ennui am I "narrowed to myself once more!" How vainly do we beat against the bars of consciousness in order to escape from the dreary monotony of selfcommunion! The fiction of selves and other selves is made much of in the activities of life. Bacon's words are very familiar: "Be not too sensible or too remembering of thy place in conversation and private answers to suitors; but let it rather be said, 'when he sits in place, he is another man."" An amusing but convincing illustration of the separation of the professional and personal selves is furnished by the anecdote of a model, who, nude and unconscious as Eve, was posing before a class of male art students. The studio was on the top floor of a large building, and suddenly a workman, who had been engaged in repairs on the roof, walking along the gutter, peered through the window. The model, with a shriek of affrighted modesty, fled to the dressing
Thackeray somewhere speaks of the wretched company certain persons are obliged to keep when alone. In view of the impossibility of escape from self, and of the inevitable introspection during many
hours of our lives, it is essential to our happiness that our auto-attitude be somewhat indulgent and extenuating, indeed, that we extend to ourselves something of the same charity of judgment which is recognized as a duty toward others. No doubt there are some who require just the contrary admonition. As there is a class of persons whose practical career is abortive because excessive egotism renders them incapable of self-criticism, so also there are those with whom subjective contemplation is ever unctuously complacent. But it is believed, both from observation and because of antecedent probability, that self-pessimism much more abounds. To the ancient hermit monk and the modern Puritan the doctrine of the Fall of Man and the essential vileness of human nature were not mere figments of speculative theology, but stood for something hideously real. For generation after generation the Christian world was deliberately bred to the duty of self-pessimism. As to the bearing of the pessimistic introspective attitude on personal felicity, there may be cited a habit of Dr. Samuel Johnson, which, as explained by Sir Joshua Reynolds, exemplifies a common phase of human experience. Boswell quotes from a paper by Sir Joshua Reynolds: "Those motions or tricks of Dr. Johnson are improperly called convulsions. He could sit motionless when he was told to do so, as well as any other man; my opinion is that it proceeded from a habit he had indulged of accompanying his thoughts with certain untoward actions, and those actions
always appeared to me as if they were meant to reprobate some part of his past conduct. Whenever he was not engaged in conversation such thoughts were sure to rush into his mind; and, for this reason, any company, any employment whatsoever, he preferred to being alone." Many passages in Boswell show that Dr. Johnson had the grotesque conviction of personal vileness which Puritanism inflicted on the English middle class, and whose morbid influence lingers in the consciousness of average Englishmen and Americans to-day.
For proper self-complacency in ordinary individuals, for self-endurance by persons of imaginative temperament, it is necessary directly to reverse the Puritanic trend of imagination. The day-dreams of a child are normal and healthy. He fancies himself the central figure in impossible deeds of heroic achievement. The same faculty, in a sobered form, constitutes an important factor in mature intellectual life. All of us have friends and acquaintances to whom what we know to be a self-illusion is one of their most valuable possessions, both as rendering life bearable or measurably happy. and as imparting an energy in action, which would be utterly sapped if they were forced to realize the brutal truth. This common observation may well give us pause before the spiritual suicide of a relentless self-disillusionment. One who cherishes a debased conception rather than an idealized vision of self, elects to pass his life chained wrist and ankle with the Devil.