Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/788

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approval and admiration of great and good deeds. The highest and noblest action results never from conscious choice, but springs unconsciously from the force of noble character—"instinctively," as we sometimes say. Of Cato, it was said that he was good because he could not be otherwise. So far from lessening the excellence of conduct that noble motives act always with irresistible force upon great men, that is the chief reason for honoring them, because they at least could not act ignobly. "Here I stand," said Luther, at Worms, "God help me, Ich kann nicht anders!" This is the key-note of noble action everywhere, "I can not otherwise!" The engineer, at New Hamburgh, hesitating not a moment when duty called him to a horrible death; the captain of the sinking steamer who will not leave the ship until every passenger is safe, and so goes down with her; Arnold Winkelried crying, "Make way for liberty!" and rushing upon the Austrian spears; Sir Philip Sidney, mortally wounded, taking from his parched lips the water brought him, that a poor soldier, who looked longingly with dying eyes at the cup, might first drink; the martyrs who have chosen to suffer ignominy and death that we might have freedom of thought and speech—these are types of men humanity will ever honor; their example and memory we shall reverence even though we know—rather because we know—that the needle points not more surely to the pole than that for them, there and then, meanness was impossible—that their great souls were only capable of noble deeds.



"A FOOL, Mr. Edgeworth, is one who has never made an experiment." Such are, I believe, the exact words of the remark which Erasmus Darwin addressed to Richard Lovell Edgeworth. They deserve to become proverbial. They have the broad foundation of truth and the trenchant disregard of accuracy in detail which mark an adage. Of course, the saying at once suggests the question, What is an experiment? In a certain way, all people, whether fools or wise men, are constantly making experiments. The education of the infant is thoroughly experimental from the very first, only in a haphazard and unconscious way. The child which overbalances itself in learning to walk is experimenting on the law of gravity. All successful action is successful experiment, in the broadest sense of the term, and every mistake or failure is a negative experiment, which deters us from repetition. Our mental framework, too, is marvelously contrived, so as to go on ceaselessly registering on the tablets of the memory the favorable or unfavorable results of every kind of action. Charles Babbage