« НазадПродовжити »
is not for them to sit in judgment on, or to attempt to “sneer out of the order of God's manifold universe.” Landor makes Alfieri declare of the court people with whom he has had to do: “The rascals have ruined my physiognomy. I wear an habitual sneer upon my face"; and they, on his showing, the whole and sole cause. A popular fiction describes one of those men so often met with, who, with an air of profound respect, have at the same time a slight smile hanging ever about the corners of their mouths, which casts a sneering expression over their entire face : the people, it is added, “on whom nature or habit has inflicted such a look are always hated, because, without having a pretext for resenting it, we perceive that they are insulting us in their hearts.” But the potentiality of sneering runs through a large gamut of expression, and varies in offence or in almost absolute offensiveness accordingly. Dr. Campbell wrote of Burke, in 1787 : “ There is a good deal of placidity in his countenance, but nothing of striking dignity, and from his nose I think that no man can sneer with more ease and effect if he chooses.” Of a more pronounced type was the “dread sneer” of the younger Pitt, as we see him depicted in St. Stephen's :
"...His front with labour paled ;
The eyes that rarely glowed, but never quailed :
And leaves the brow scarce ruffled by its frown.” Wordsworth speaks in his autobiographic Prelude of “all that silent language," as he expressively calls it, which so oft in conversation between man and man
1 Lucy Fountain, in Mr. Charles Reade's story, avowedly, and in large capitals,' “hates” Mr. Talboys, because “he is always backbiting and sneering : he admires nothing and nobody.” “He has admired you ever since he saw you,” replies her uncle. - What! has he never sneered at me?" asks the quick-witted girl. “Never, ungrateful girl, never,” rejoins the matter of fact uncle. “Then that is very humiliating,” says Lucy ; “he takes me for his inferior. His superiors he always sneers at.” She is convinced that had he seen anything good and spirited in her, he could not help detracting from and sneering at her.
“ Blots from the human countenance all trace
Of beauty and of love." “ Is he sneering ?” asks Colonna of Da Riva, in their colloquy with Agolanti (in the Legend of Florence):
“... Is he sneering ?
Or is his zeal, and fame for polite manners,
Riva. Something of both; he sneers, because he hates us ;
And would not have it seen, because he fears us.” Therein lies the genesis, the natural history of a sneer. The coward may adopt the subtle tactics of Pope's Atticus, who assented with civil leer, and, without himself sneering, taught the rest to sneer. Sheridan's Snake compliments Lady Sneerwell on her distinctive “mellowness of sneer.” It has been said of Jeffrey's sneer, that at a distance it might almost have been taken for an infant smile : and yet how thoroughly it did its work! “ It was as though the shadow of poison could kill,” his sneers were “so light, and apparently gentle.” Whereas of Scott it is recorded by Washington Irving, his Abbotsford guest, and a real student of his writings, “I do not recollect a sneer throughout his conversation, any more than there is throughout his works.” 1 Another distinguished American, the historian
1 Habitual sneerers are as rare among his characters, as they are common among those of a later school of fiction. Bletson, in Woodstock, is one of them: “a habitual sneer on his countenance, even when he least wished to express contempt on his features, seemed to assure the individual addressed that in Bletson he conversed with a person of intellect far superior to his own.”
Fielding's Blifil has “one of those grinning sneers with which the devil marks his best beloved."
Charlotte Bronté characterizes her sister Emily's Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, as standing unredeemed, never once swerving in his arrow-straight course to perdition, to the hour when he lies on his back a grim, stalwart corpse, with wide gazing eyes that seem "to sneer at the attempts to close them, and parted lips, and sharp, white teeth that sneer too."
Mrs. Gore's Lady Leighton, in The Hamiltons, deplores the conviction her intimacy with the Eardley clique has impressed upon her, of the “ excess of frightfulness” to which“ we may be brought by a universal sneer.”
Hook exhibits on the face of his retired Excellency, Sir Frederick Brashleigh, “one of those sneers which ere now has paralysed a subaltern, or exterminated a commissary.”
Prescott, says of Sir Walter, whose frank address was an open sesame to every heart, that “he did not deal in sneers, the poisoned weapons which come, not from the head, as the man who launches them is apt to think,l but from an acid heart, or an acid stomach, a very common laboratory of such small artillery.” De Quincey calls it untrue that “a sneer cannot be answered,” but the answer too often imposes circumlocution; and upon a subject, he adds, which makes wise men grave, a sneer argues so much perversion of heart that it cannot be thought uncandid to infer some corresponding perversion of intellect. “Perfect sincerity never existed in a professional sneerer."
SLOW TO WRATH.
PROVERBS xiv. 29. D Y the voice of him whose greatness of understanding
procured for him the title of the wise man, he that is slow to wrath is pronounced to be of great understanding, whereas the man that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. Then again, a wrathful man stirreth up strife, while he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife. “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger;" “ A fool's wrath is presently known.” Folly fires up on the instant; and folly being made up of light materials in an instant all is ablaze.
Lord Macaulay has remarked that there are some unhappy men constitutionally prone to the darker passions, men to whom bitter words are as natural as snarling and biting to
1 How closes Mr. Disraeli the third chapter of Vivian Grey ? Sententiously, at least with this sentence : “A smile for a friend, and a sneer for the world, is the way to govern mankind, and such was the motto of Vivian Grey."
Compare Voltaire's mot d'ordre : “ Marchez toujours en ricanant, mes amis, dans le chemin de la vérité." C'est le refrain perpétuel, Sainte Beuve says.
a ferocious dog; and he asserts that to come into the world with this wretched mental disease is a greater calamity than to be born blind or deaf. A man, he proceeds to say, who, having such a temper, keeps it in subjection, and constrains himself to behave habitually with justice and humanity towards those who are in his power, seems worthy of the highest admiration. “There have been instances of this self command, and they are among the most signal triumphs of philosophy and religion.” The inspired authority previously cited has declared him that is slow to anger to be better than the mighty, and him that ruleth his spirit than him that taketh a city.
In eulogies of the emperor Justinian this characteristic is not to be slighted, that he was “a master of the angry passions which rage with such destructive violence in the breast of a despot.” Of Mahomet we are told that he was naturally irritable, but had brought his temper under great control, so that even in the self indulgent intercourse of domestic life he was kind and tolerant. “I served him from the time I was eight years old,” said his servant Anas, “and he never scolded me for anything, though things were spoilt by me." Adam Smith traces from school and playground the progress and, so to speak, natural history of self control, and shows on what grounds, and in what way, the child advances in self command, studies to be more and more master of itself, and tries to exercise over its own feelings “a discipline which the practice of the longest life is very seldom sufficient to bring to complete perfection.” Strafford has been quoted as an example of failure. For though his letter to his nephew, Sir William Savile, urges the cultivation of calmness and courtesy of demeanour, we have the testimony of even his most intimate and admiring friend, Sir George Radcliffe, to show that “he was naturally exceedingly choleric,” and the actions of his life are held to be sufficient proof that in that particular he was never able thoroughly to subdue nature. The harder the battle, the nobler the victory; and in some hard battles of this sort the victory has been all but complete.
Iracundus, the choleric man, is comprehended in the nemo of whom Horace negatively affirms that
“Nemo adeo ferus est, ut non mitescere possit,
Si modo culturæ patientem commodet aurem." Of Columbus we read that his temper was naturally irritable, but that he subdued it by the magnanimity of his spirit, comporting himself with a courteous and gentle gravity, and never indulging in any intemperance of language. Recording his calm self command when provoked by the insolence of Aguado, his biographer says: “his natural heat and impetuosity had been subdued by a life of trials; he had learnt to bring his passions into subjection to his judgment.” And verily he had his reward. “Tu si animum vicisti,” says Plautus, “potius quam animus te, est quod gaudeas." To Columbus so con. fronted with an unworthy foe may be applied Shakspeare's lines :
“Seeing his reputation touched to death,
And with such sober and unnoted passion” (that is, passion so subdued that no spectator could note its operation)
“He did behaved his anger, ere'twas spent,
As if he had but proved an argument. Addison sets forth an example in Juba, after the example of Cato:
“Behold young Juba, the Numidian prince!
With how much care he forms himself to glory,
To copy out our father's bright example." Edmund Bohun, in his “Character of Queen Elizabeth,” while allowing that she used to be vehemently transported with anger, and that when she was so she would show it by her voice, her countenance, and her hands, yet contends on her behalf that her anger“ was short and very innocent," and gravely adds
1 Manage, control.