His Eyes Were
Sealed By A Cheap, School-Book Materialism.
He could see nothing
in the world but money and steam-engines.
He did not know what you
meant by the word happiness. He had forgotten the simple emotions
of childhood, and perhaps never encountered the delights of youth.
He believed in production, that useful figment of economy, as if it
had been real like laughter; and production, without prejudice to
liquor, was his god and guide. One day he took me to task - novel
cry to me - upon the over-payment of literature. Literary men, he
said, were more highly paid than artisans; yet the artisan made
threshing-machines and butter-churns, and the man of letters,
except in the way of a few useful handbooks, made nothing worth the
while. He produced a mere fancy article. Mackay's notion of a
book was Hoppus's Measurer. Now in my time I have possessed and
even studied that work; but if I were to be left to-morrow on Juan
Fernandez, Hoppus's is not the book that I should choose for my
I tried to fight the point with Mackay. I made him own that he had
taken pleasure in reading books otherwise, to his view,
insignificant; but he was too wary to advance a step beyond the
admission. It was in vain for me to argue that here was pleasure
ready-made and running from the spring, whereas his ploughs and
butter-churns were but means and mechanisms to give men the
necessary food and leisure before they start upon the search for
pleasure; he jibbed and ran away from such conclusions.
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