farmers’ dress—more unnatural in their constrained attitudes and

gestures–most unnatural in their attempts at ease and geniality in

their talk. Go instead and take a seat in a third-class

railway-carriage, and you’ll get the same dialogue done to the life!

Front-seats–no orchestra to block the view–and nothing to pay!”

“Which reminds me,” said Eric. “There is nothing to pay on receiving a

telegram! Shall we enquire for one?” And he and Lady Muriel strolled

off in the direction of the Telegraph-Office.

“I wonder if Shakespeare had that thought in his mind,” I said,

“when he wrote ‘All the world’s a stage’?”

The old man sighed. “And so it is, “he said, “look at it as you will.

Life is indeed a drama; a drama with but few encores–and no bouquets!”

he added dreamily. “We spend one half of it in regretting the things

we did in the other half!”

“And the secret of enjoying it,” he continued, resuming his cheerful

tone, “is intensity!”

“But not in the modern aesthetic sense, I presume? Like the young lady,

in Punch, who begins a conversation with ‘Are you intense?'”

“By no means!” replied the Earl.

“What I mean is intensity of thought–a concentrated attention.

We lose half the pleasure we might have in Life, by not really attending.

Take any instance you like: it doesn’t matter how trivial the pleasure

may be–the principle is the same. Suppose A and B are reading the same

second-rate circulating-library novel. A never troubles himself to

master the relationships of the characters, on which perhaps all the

interest of the story depends: he ‘skips’ over all the descriptions of

scenery, and every passage that looks rather dull: he doesn’t half attend

to the passages he does read: he goes on reading merely from want of

resolution to find another occupation–for hours after he ought to have

put the book aside: and reaches the ‘FINIS’ in a state of utter

weariness and depression! B puts his whole soul into the thing–on the

principle that ‘whatever is worth doing is worth doing well’:

he masters the genealogies: he calls up pictures before his ‘mind’s eye’

as he reads about the scenery: best of all, he resolutely shuts the

book at the end of some chapter, while his interest is yet at its

keenest, and turns to other subjects; so that, when next he allows

himself an hour at it, it is like a hungry man sitting down to dinner:

and, when the book is finished, he returns to the work of his daily

life like ‘a giant refreshed’!”

“But suppose the book were really rubbish–nothing to repay attention?”

“Well, suppose it,” said the Earl. “My theory meets that case,

I assure you! A never finds out that it is rubbish, but maunders on to

the end, trying to believe he’s enjoying himself. B quietly shuts the

book, when he’s read a dozen pages, walks off to the Library, and

changes it for a better! I have yet another theory for adding to the

enjoyment of Life–that is, if I have not exhausted your patience?

I’m afraid you find me a very garrulous old man.”

“No indeed!” I exclaimed earnestly. And indeed I felt as if one could

not easily tire of the sweet sadness of that gentle voice.

“It is, that we should learn to take our pleasures quickly, and our

pains slowly.”

“But why? I should have put it the other way, myself.”

“By taking artificial pain–which can be as trivial as you

please–slowly, the result is that, when real pain comes, however

severe, all you need do is to let it go at its ordinary pace, and it’s

over in a moment!”

“Very true,” I said, “but how about the pleasure?”

“Why, by taking it quick, you can get so much more into life. It takes

you three hours and a half to hear and enjoy an opera. Suppose I can

take it in, and enjoy it, in half-an-hour. Why, I can enjoy seven

operas, while you are listening; to one!”

“Always supposing you have an orchestra capable of playing them,”

I said. “And that orchestra has yet to be found!”

The old man smiled. “I have heard an ‘air played,” he said, “and by no

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis