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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/184

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constrained to follow the tastes and the judgments of the masses, under penalty of being ignored or contemned. A writer devises a style which the public receive with enthusiasm: he has struck a vein. He accustoms those who read his books, or who witness his plays, to this style, be it good or bad, and the result is that, for some time, all authors are compelled more or less to imitate the fortunate innovator, if they wish to succeed. Hence, though one were not led to imitate, by instinct or by nature, still he would do so from necessity or from self-interest. The founder of the London Times was once asked how he contrived to have all the articles in that journal appear as though written by one hand. "Oh," said he, "there is always one editor who is superior to all the rest, and they imitate him."

The history of religions from beginning to end is full of facts showing how men are guided, not by arguments but by exemplars, and exhibiting the tendency they have to reproduce what they have seen or heard, and to regulate their lives according to the bright and triumphant examples that stand before their eyes. Many victories, esteemed by apostles to be the effects of persuasion, are rather to be attributed to that recondite influence which leads men irresistibly to imitate their fellows. And does not this same agency of imitation appear in the body politic, transforming little by little, but yet radically, the habits, the opinions, and even the beliefs of men? Nothing is easier, than, for a man who has acquired an influence over the populace, to bring them over to his own sentiments, ideas, and chimeras. And the observation is confirmed by daily experience in the education of children. In a school we often find the external characteristics—the tone, the gait, the games, changing from year to year. The reason of this is that some dominant spirits—two or three pupils who used to have an ascendency over the rest, have left; others are now in their place, and every thing wears a different face. As the models change, so do the copies. The pupils no longer applaud or jeer at the same things as before.

This instinct of imitation is specially developed in persons of defective education or civilization. Savages copy quicker and better than Europeans. Like children, they have a natural faculty for mimicry, and cannot refrain from imitating every thing they see. There is in their minds nothing to offset this tendency to imitation. Every well-instructed man has within himself a considerable reserve of ideas upon which to fall back; this resource is wanting in the savage and in the child: they live in all the occurrences which take place before them; their life is bound up in what they see and hear; they are the playthings of external influences. In civilized nations persons without culture are in the like situation. Send a chambermaid and a philosopher into a country, the language of which neither of them is acquainted with, and it is likely that the chambermaid will learn it before the philosopher. He has something else to do: he can live with his