Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/210

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ceit. Bruisers are attracted by Mignons, light-weight dandies by two hundred-pound peasant girls, stoics by shrews, polyhistors by unsophisticated Gretchens, saints by flirts, metaphysicians by tomboys, grimy Vulcan by Venus, moral or physical anomalies by their opposite extremes. One-sided men, as it were, instinctively seek their complement in the interest of the next generation, and it so happens that nearly all great men are one-sided—one or two of their faculties having been phenomenally developed at the expense of the rest.

And to complete the explanation, moral and intellectual preeminence are frequently attained at the cost of the physical organism:

"The restless spirit, working out its way,
Fretted the feeble body to decay;"

and Marcus Aurelius, yielding to instinct, selects a Faustina whose vital vigor gives her a superior chance to transmit her physical and moral characteristics.

Hence the portent of disparity, the toto-cœlo contrast between legitimate sons and such fathers as Cromwell, Bonaparte, Humboldt, Goethe, and Dante. Hence, also, the phenomenon of atavism: the necessity of neutralizing anomalies by an alliance of opposite extremes tends to repeat itself in successive generations, and two inversions may thus result in the re-establishment of a strange ancestral type.



IT is worth our while at times to turn aside from the investigation of the newer theories and problems of conduct, to examine a little carefully some of the older but not less weighty matters of the law. Familiarity is said to breed contempt in social and domestic intercourse; it certainly has its peculiar dangers in the domain of thought. We may grow so accustomed to a fact that it gradually loses its meaning for us; we may live so long in intimate association with a life-giving idea that little by little it lapses into dry and sterile commonplace. When this happens, it is well to force such fact or idea out again into the current of freshening inquiry, that the mind may play actively about it for a season, and its full significance be thus revealed.

If this general doctrine be recognized as sound, it may be regarded as not altogether waste of time to consider briefly the ancient and well-established ethical principle of truthfulness, or veracity.