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but he holds the pen to be the more faithful of the two. “The tongue, in udo posita, being seated in a moist slippery place, may fail and falter in her sudden extemporal expressions; but the pen, having the greater advantage of premeditation, is not so subject to error.” A masterly correspondent, Howell magnified his office. But his presence must have been better still than his correspondence, so manifest are the marks his pen makes of a manly, genial, attached and attaching nature.
Immense as is the distance between a letter and an interview, writes Madame d'Arblay to her father from abroad, “where the dearer is unattainable, its succedaneum becomes more precious than those who enjoy both can believe, or even conceive. O my dearest father, let no possible conveyance pass without giving me the sight of your hand, if it be but by your signature." Between the sight of a hand and the warm grasp of one the difference is indeed most real. One of the Cranford worthies describes correspondence as bearing much the same relation to personal intercourse that the hortus siccus, or book of dried plants, does to the living and fresh flowers in the lanes and meadows. “Writing winna do it,” says Jeanie Deans, when scheming how to procure her sister's pardon from the Crown, “a letter canna look, and pray, and beg, and beseech, as the human voice can do to the human heart. A letter 's like the music that the ladies have for their spinnetsnaething but black scores, compared to the same tune played or sung. It 's word o'mouth maun do it, or naething, Reuben." The section next ensuing will treat of the animating power of personal communication, from the standpoint of another text.
AS IRON SHARPENETH IRON.
PROVERBS xxvii. 17. THE proverb of Solomon, that as “iron sharpeneth iron,
so a man sharpeneth the face of his friend,” is described by Edward Irving as forcibly expressing the effect of religious converse and communion by a beautiful figure, which also not inaptly represents the way in which the effect is produced. Iron, he reminds us, sharpeneth iron by removing the rust which has been contracted from their lying apart; so intercourse between friend and friend rubs down the prejudices which they have contracted in their separate state. And as the iron, having removed the rust which ate into the good stuft of the blade, and hindered its employment for husbandry or war, straightway applies itself to the metallic substance, brings it to a polish and to an edge, shows its proper temper, and fits it for its proper use; so, he goes on to say, the intercourse of friends having removed the prejudices which were foreign to the nature and good condition of each, and which, while they remained, did but fester and hurt the good temper of their souls, proceeds in the next place to bring out the slumbering spirit which lay hid, to kindle each other into brightness, and prepare each other for action. “ Again, when by hard service and rough handling the iron hath lost its edge, and grown unfit for further use, if you bring it again to its former companion, though equally disabled, they again prepare each other for action ; and again and again, until the substance of both be well-nigh worn away. ... So when friend, by intercourse with friend, being polished and hardened, goes forth into active life, and, after various rough adversities or hard encounters, grows weary or disabled, and revisits the former companion of his soul, haply as much belaboured by toil and trouble, (for who, in this world of care escapeth it?) then the two, exchanging their various experiences, recounting their dangers past, and their present condition, are refreshed again; they open up their schemes to one another, their difficulties and their fears; and, before the good countenance and encouragement of our friend, our difficulties, like the great mountain before Zerubbabel, become a plain ; we feel like new men again ; our countenance is renewed, and we go forth to renew the struggle in the sea of difficulties wherewith we are encompassed.”
So testifies he of whom Mr. Carlyle bears record that “but for Irving, I had never known what communion of man
their dano", exchanging
to one an, are refresh
with man means. His was the freest, brotherliest, bravest human soul mine ever came in contact with.” It was iron-sharpened iron, diamond-cut diamond, when these two Annandale associates met ; true as steel, if not as polished, both. Each sharpened the face of the other, 1 and lit it up with sparks and sparkles as of a light that never was on sea or shore.
Adam Smith elaborates his argument that the mind is rarely so disturbed, but that the company of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquillity and sedateness; the breast being, in some measure, calmed and composed the moment we come into his presence; for we are immediately put in mind of the light in which he will view our situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in the same light—so instantaneous is the effect of sympathy. Society and conversation are declared to be “the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper which is so necessary to self satisfaction and enjoyment. Men of retirement and speculation, who are apt to sit brooding at home over either grief or resentment, though they may often have more humanity, more generosity, and a nicer sense of honour, yet seldom possess that equality of temper which is so common among men of the world.”
The late excellent Bishop Lonsdale (clarum et venerabile nomen), arguing in favour of personal intercourse in the form of church congresses, very shortly before his death, rejected the suggestion that intercommunication of studies, feelings, thoughts, and experience may be accomplished not less efficiently through the medium of the press. We all know, he said, the constant and ever increasing facilities which the
1“Good ! and your faces brighten, and your eyes
Glitter, as stars do in a good sharp wind.
ROBERT LYTTON : Vanini.
press affords for this ; but "we know also, and we feel too, that there is a life in personal communication which cannot otherwise be generated.” Apply the words of Goethe's Tasso, in connection with the iron-wrought similitude of Solomon :
“ As with mysterious power the magnet binds
Iron with iron, so do kindred aims
of those who cherish and pursue them, Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel? is a question put in the prophecies of Jeremiah, to which an applied answer again in Solomon's sense may be essayed. Another of Goethe's discoursers vents the exclamation :
“How dear the counsel of a present friend,
Lacking whose godlike power the lonely one
Which friendship’s genial warmth had soon matured.” Treating of tonics, mental and material, as force pumps which exhaust the strength they pretend to supply, an American essayist contends that, of all known cordials, the best, safest, and most exhilarating is good fellowship. If men are less when together than when they are alone, they are also, he urges, in some respects enlarged; they kindle each other. “What are the best days in memory ? Those in which we met a companion who was truly such.... How the countenance of our friend still left some light after he had gone !” Summing up, however, the obvious pleasures and values of good companionship, the author of Society and Solitude does not forget that Nature being very much in earnest, her great gifts have something serious and stern; and that when we look for the highest benefits of conversation the Spartan rule of one to one is usually enforced. So face answereth to face, and deep calleth to deep, and the iron that sharpeneth for good uses, that iron enters into the soul, and so sharpeneth the face of a friend,—both faces indeed of both friends.
One of the Taylor (of Ongar) family, in a letter descriptive of their sequestered course of life in the country, remarks: "We want nothing but a little more society; one congenial family within our reach would be a treasure: for though we do love each other, and enjoy each other's society greatly, yet there are times when we long to recreate our wearied spirits with an intelligent friend." There was a longing for what Thomson calls
“.. the sweet light from mingled minds disclosed,
From mingled chymic oils as bursts the fire.” Till you enjoy, after long deprivation, observes a Commonplace Philosopher, the blessing of converse with a man of high intellect and cultivation, you do not know how much there is in you : your powers are stimulated to produce thought of which you would not have believed yourself capable. “The effect of solitary confinement, we know, upon uneducated prisoners, is to drive them mad.” A writer on lunatic asylums tells us that they contain a far larger proportion of rustics than of toilworn artisans from the great manufacturing towns; and that isolation is a greater cause of mental ruin than aggregation-our English fields affording a possible supply of crétins as plentiful as the upland valleys of the mountain range, seldom visited by the foot of the traveller ; whilst, on the other hand, in the workshop and the public assembly, as “ iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the face of his friend.”
That is a significant passage in the Romeward journey of St. Paul, after shipwreck and trials not a few, which tells how the brethren came to meet him as far as Appii Forum and The Three Taverns; whom when Paul saw he thanked God and took courage. That face of his, steadfastly set to see Rome, knowing though he did that bonds and afflictions awaited him there, and surmising as well he might the decease he was one day to accomplish there,-his face was sharpened by the sight of his friends ; it was a good sight for sore eyes; and it made him go on his way rejoicing, though the way was to Rome.
though he did nis, steadfastly set
awaited him in