OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI
by Sir Francis Burnand
OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
November 26, 1892.
LETTERS TO ABSTRACTIONS.
NO. XVII.--TO FAILURE.
A Philosopher has deigned to address to me a letter. "Sir," writes
my venerable correspondent, "I have been reading your open letters to
Abstractions with some interest. You will, however, perhaps permit
me to observe that amongst those to whom you have written are not a
few who have no right whatever to be numbered amongst Abstractions.
Laziness, for instance, and Crookedness, and Irritation--not to
mention others--how is it possible to say that these are Abstractions?
They are concrete qualities and nothing else. Forgive me for making
this correction, and believe me yours, &c. A PLATONIST."--To which I
merely reply, with all possible respect, "Stuff and nonsense!" I know
my letters have reached those to whom they were addressed, no single
one has come back through the Dead-letter Office, and that is enough
for me. Besides, there are thousands of Abstractions that the mind
of "A PLATONIST" has never conceived. Somewhere I know, there is an
abstract Boot, a perfect and ideal combination of all the qualities
that ever were or will be connected with boots, a grand exemplar
to which all material boots, more or less, nearly approach; and by
their likeness to which they are recognised as boots by all who in
a previous existence have seen the ideal Boot. Sandals, mocassins,
butcher-boots, jack-boots, these are but emanations from the great
original. Similarly, there must be an abstract Dog, to the likeness of
which, in one respect or another, both the Yorkshire Terrier and the
St. Bernard conform. So much then for "A PLATONIST." And now to the
matter in hand.
My dear FAILURE, there exists amongst us, as, indeed, there has
always existed, an innumerable body of those upon whom you have cast
your melancholy blight. Amongst their friends and acquaintances they
are known by the name you yourself bear. They are the great army of
failures. But there must be no mistake. Because a man has had high
aspirations, has tried with all the energy of his body and soul to
realise them, and has, in the end, fallen short of his exalted aim,
he is not, therefore, to be called a failure. MOSES, I may remind you,
was suffered only to look upon the Promised Land from a mountain-top.
Patriots without number--KOSSUTH shall be my example--have fought
and bled, and have been thrust into exile, only to see their objects
gained by others in the end. But the final triumph was theirs surely
almost as much as if they themselves had gained it. On the other hand
there are those who march from disappointment to disappointment, but
remain serenely unconscious of it all the time. These are not genuine
failures. There is CHARSLEY, for instance, journalist, dramatist,
novelist--Heaven knows what besides. His plays have run, on an
average, about six nights; his books, published mostly at his own
expense, are a drug in the market; but the little creature is as vain,
as proud, and, it must be added, as contented, as though Fame had set
him, with a blast of her golden trumpet, amongst the mighty Immortals.
What lot can be happier than his? Secure in his impregnable egotism,
ramparted about with mighty walls of conceit, he bids defiance to
attack, and lives an enviable life of self-centred pleasure.
Then, again, there was JOHNNIE TRUEBRIDGE. I do not mean to liken him
to CHARSLEY, for no more unselfish and kind-hearted being than JOHNNIE
ever breathed. But was there ever a stone that rolled more constantly
and gathered less moss? Yet no stroke could subdue his inconquerable
cheerfulness. Time after time he got his head above the waters;
time after time, some malignant emissary of fate sent him bubbling
and gasping down into the depths. He was up again in a moment,
striving, battling, buffeting. Nothing could
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