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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/381

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CHAPTER X.


AN OUTSIDER'S VIEW OF MEN AND THINGS.


MAN has a desire to revenge himself on that which pleases him. Hence the contempt felt for the comedian. This being charms, diverts, distracts, teaches, enchants, consoles me, transports me into an ideal world, is agreeable and useful to me. What evil can I do him in return? Humiliate him. Disdain is a crushing blow, so I will crush him with disdain. He amuses me, therefore he is vile. He serves me, therefore I hate him. Where can I find a stone to throw at him? Priest, give me yours. Philosopher, give me yours. Bossuet, excommunicate him. Rousseau, insult him. Orator, spit the pebbles from your mouth at him. Bear, fling your stone. Let us hurl stones at the tree, hit the fruit and eat it. Bravo! down with him! To repeat poetry is to be infected with the plague. Wretched play-actor! we will put him in the pillory for his success. Let him follow up his triumph with our hisses. Let him collect a crowd, and yet create a solitude around him. Thus it is that the wealthy, termed the higher classes, have invented for the actor that form of isolation known as public applause.

The vulgar herd is less brutal. They neither hated nor despised Gwynplaine. Only the meanest calker of the meanest crew of the meanest merchantman, anchored in the meanest English sea-port, considered himself immeasurably superior to this amuser of the "scum,"