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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

And while Rousseau could not be accused of being sensual


production of unlimited conceit,

of a practical absence of any moral sensitiveness; and while Rousseau could not be accused of being sensual, nor amorous and heartless as Goethe, he yet shows so crude a moral state as to render him unwholesome to any person of ordinary morals in the present day. His "Confessions," instead of being naive, strike me as being distinctly and continuously coarse. A man and woman who could give their children deliberately to be farmed out, deserting them as an animal would not, and this with no sense of loss or compunction, nor even with a sense of the inhumanity of such procedure--such a man and woman tell us how free-love can degrade a natively virtuous mind. Such was Rousseau; and his "Confessions" are like himself, unblushing, because shameless. These books reflect their respective ages, and are happily obsolete now. Such memoirs and fictions in our day are unthinkable as emanating from respectable sources; and if written would be located in vile haunts in the purlieus of civilization. Gauged by such a test, the world is seen to be better, and immensely better. We have sailed out of sight of the old continent of coarse thinking, and are sailing a sea where purity of thought and expression impregnate the air like odors. The old hero, with his lewdness and rhodomontade, is excused from the stage. We have had enough of him. Even Cyrano de Bergerac is so out of keeping with the new notion of the heroic, that the translator of the drama must apologize for his hero's swagger.
We love his worth, though despising his theatrical air and acts. We are done with the actor, and want the man. And this new hero is proof of a new life in the soul, and, therefore, more welcome than the glad surprise of the first meadow-lark's song upon the brown meadows of the early spring.

A reader need not be profound, but may be superficial, and yet discover that Jean Valjean is fashioned after the likeness of Jesus. Michael Angelo did not more certainly model the dome of St. Peter's after Brunelleschi's dome of the Duomo than Hugo has modeled his Valjean after Christ. We are not necessarily aware of ourselves, nor of our era, until something discovers both to us, as we do not certainly know sea air when we feel it. I doubt if most men would recognize the tonic of sea air if they did not know the sea was neighbor to them. We sight the ocean, and then know the air is flooded with a health as ample as the seas from which it blows. So we can not know our intellectual air is saturated with Christ, because we can not go back. We lack contemporaneous material for contrast. We are, ourselves, a part of the age, as of a moving ship, and can not see its motion. We can not realize the world's yesterdays. We know them, but do not comprehend them, since between apprehending and comprehending an epoch lie such wide spaces. "Quo Vadis" has done good in that it has popularized a realization of that turpitude of condition into which Christianity stepped at the morning of its career; for no lazar-house is so vile as the Roman civilization when Christianity began--God's angel--to trouble that cursed pool. Christ has come into this world's affairs unheralded, as the morning does not come; for who watches the eastern lattices can see the morning star, and know the dawn is near. Christ has slipped upon the world as a tide slips up the shores, unnoted, in the night; and because we did not see him come, did not hear his advent, his presence is not apparent. Nothing is so big with joy to Christian thought as the absolute omnipresence of the Christ in the world's life. Stars light their torches in the sky; and the sky is wider and higher than the stars. Christ is such a sky to modern civilization.


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