Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/427

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WORK AND REST: GENIUS AND STUPIDITY.

such things. But, far from proving the abnormality of genius, they are one of the proofs of its general sanity and inherent humanness. The common man does not focus upon himself the glare of investigation or his ‘peculiarities’ would stand forth in their kinship with those of the genius who is the cynosure of all. Genius, by virtue of its humanity, has a right to be stupid here and there. Talent, which is so largely artificial, abhors stupidity, as nature is said to abhor a vacuum, or the Devil to hate holy water, but genius proves its naturalness by its occasional stupidity. The keenest eye has its blind-spot, the most highly evolved brain its non-responsive cells. Says Lombroso:[1] “When the moment of inspiration is over, the man of genius becomes an ordinary man, if he does not descend lower; in the same way, personal inequalities, or, according to modern terminology, double, or even contrary, personality, is one of the characters of genius. Our greatest poets, Isaac Disraeli remarked (in Curiosities of Literature), Shakespeare and Dryden, are those who have produced the worst lines. It was said of Tintoretto that sometimes he surpassed Tintoretto, and sometimes was inferior to Caracci.”

The Criminal.—Says Havelock Ellis:[2] ‘While he is essentially lazy . . . the criminal is capable of moments of violent activity.’ The vacuous lives of criminals, with whom inertia is practically normal and continuous for long periods, have their brief epoch of excitement, explosion, diversion, uproar, intoxication, exhilaration and ‘breaking out.’ Indulgence in alcohol, gambling, sexual orgies, spasmodic and emotional manifestations of personality, and the like, are the sharp peaks that rise, few in number so often, from long low stretches of commonplace inertia and quiescence, or from the imprisonment that seems the normal condition of so many of them. The monotonous lapse of prison life is dotted with those outbreaks to which the German criminologists and psychiatrists have given the name of ‘Zuchthausknall.’ The French thief, in his jargon, calls himself ‘pègre,’ or ‘idler,’ and a pickpocket said to Lombroso, “You see in these ‘moments of inspiration’ we cannot restrain ourselves; we have to steal.” In the execution of many of those acts denominated crimes the offender exhibits the phenomenon of a brief period of violent activity, extreme impulsivity, great emotionality, remarkable cunning, wide-awake personality, preceded and followed by longer (often very long) periods of inertness, quiescence, impassivity, obtuseness, subdued individuality.

The Savage.—That the savage hates work has been a favorite theory with travelers and philosophers, and the ethnologists, by pointing out the real significance of the terms for ‘work,’ which in so many languages


  1. Loc. cit., p. 74.
  2. ‘The Criminal’ (London, 1890), p. 143. See also pp. 144-152.