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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/848

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and Alfred Tennyson; look at the parodying power of the two Smiths in "Rejected Addresses"; look at the Caracci, the Rossettis, the Herschels, and then say whether even minute touches of taste and sentiment do not come out alike in brothers and sisters. Almost everybody who meets brothers or sisters or cousins of his own after a long separation (when use has not dulled his apprehension of the facts) must have noticed, "with mingled amusement and dissatisfaction, in ten thousand little ways and sayings how very closely he and they resemble one another. Sometimes the very catchwords and phrases they use, their pet aversions and their pet sympathies, turn out at every twist of life to be absurdly identical. One may even be made aware of one's own unsuspected and unobtrusive failings by observing them, as in a mirror, in the minds of one's relations, like King George's middy in Mr. Gilbert's story, who meets himself on an enchanted island, and considers his double the most disagreeable fellow he ever came across.

Why is it, then, that most people won't admit their own essential unity and identity of character with their brothers and their sisters, their cousins and their aunts? Vanity, vanity, pure human vanity, is at the bottom of all their violent reluctance. Every man flatters himself at heart that he possesses an immense number of admirable traits not to be found in any other and inferior members of his own family. Those spurious imitations may indeed resemble him somewhat in the rough, as coarse pottery resembles egg-shell porcelain; but they lack that delicacy, that refinement, that native grace and finishing touch of character which distinguish Himself, the cream and flower of his entire kindred, from all the rest of a doubtless worthy but very inferior family. I fancy I see you now—you, even you, my excellent critic—with that graceful cynical smile of yours playing lambent upon your intellectual upper lip, while you loll at your ease in your club armchair, and murmur to yourself complacently as you read, "The idea of identifying me with my brother Tom, for instance! Me, a cultivated, intelligent university man, with that stolid, stupid Philistine sugarbroker! If only I'd his wealth, how differently I'd use it! The notion's simply too ridiculous! Why, I am worth a dozen of him!" My dear sir, believe me, at this very moment your brother Tom, glancing hastily through the pages of the present paper in an interval of relaxation on his way home by Metropolitan Railway from his lair in the city, is observing with a corresponding calm smile of superiority to himself, "Ha, ha, what an absurd idea of this magazine fellow, to tell me I'm no better than my brother Jack, that briefless barrister! Jack, indeed, in the name of all that's ridiculous! If only, now, I'd had his advantages and his education—sent to Rugby and Oxford for the best years of his life, while I was stuck at seventeen into a broker's office to shift for myself and pick up my own living! And yet, what has my native talent and industry enabled me to do? Here am I at barely fifty a