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broke, and the perch escaped among the reeds, hook and all, and I haunted the brook, and again I hooked him up. It must have been the same, for know the river contains but one perch. And this time—the second time-I fairly hooked him; and again be escaped. And how? Why, by leaving behind bim his eye! I shall never forget the agony of that moment,-not to the perch ; no, he enjoyed it; but to me. Well, I had heard that for catching a perch there is no bait like a perch's eye. I baited the hook with the eye, sir, and I caught him again; and again he escaped. I have caught him seven times, and seven times has he escaped. I know it is the sane fish ; I know his profile well, for every time he has turned upon me his one eye. I had the offer of a situation in Jamaica ; I could not go while I left the perch here in triumph. I had the offer of an appointment in India ; but I could not put the ocean between myself and that perch. And once a week, from February to December, I come hither. If I should catch that perch the great business of my life will be gone." It was a strange story.
What a strange person!” said one of his listeners. “I think he is a very wise one,” said another. A strange story, but surely to be comprehended by all to whom it will be necessary to comprehend. A parable from our times illustrating the parable of Demosthenes, and showing how many a Burley practically spends his days and loses all his opportunities fishing for the one-eyed perch. May I quote verses again? Then an old writer says-
· Against our peace we arm our will,
Would soon create a future pain.” It is a wonder that we have not more common sense among us. I do not know that we can any of us laugh at our neighbours very righteously; we have all done a good deal of business in buildings; we have sought to cement with very loose mortar-Harena sine calce ---sand without lime. The want of the world, it has been said, is common sense, but then who shall say what is the meaning of common sense? It has been said, “ An ounce of common sense is worth a hundredweight of wit,” but, as I said, the difficulty is to find that common sense. “Prudence," says the proverb, “ Prudence is the shield that covers all.” “I wisdom dwell with prudence,” but" Crooked trees give crooked shadows ; and we can all remember where, once upon a time, we cast a crooked shadow.
A story, not too well known, comes to our memory. The President Montesquieu and Lord Chesterfield became acquainted as they were travelling to Italy. On the road they began to dispute about the merits of their two nations. My Lord allowed that the French had more wit than the English, but said they had no common sense. The President agreed to this; but they could not settle the difference between wit and common sense. Before the dispute was ended they arrived at Venice. Here the President went about everywhere-saw everything, asked questions, and talked to everybody, and at night noted down his observations. An hour or two after a Frenchman, shabbily dressed, came into his room and addressed him thus :—“Sir, I am a countryman of yours. I have lived here these twenty years, but I have always kept my friendship towards my countrymen; and I always think myself too happy when I have an opportunity of serving them, as I have you to-day. You may do anything in this country, except meddle with affairs of State. One thoughtless word costs a person his head, and you have already spoken a thousand. The State inquisitors have their eyes upon you ; their spies are following you everywhere ; they note down your plans, and they know you are going to write a book. To my certain knowledge they intend to pay you a visit to-day or to-morrow. Consider, before you have actually written anything, that an innocent line, if misinterpreted, may cost you your life. That is all I have to say, and now I take my leave. The only recompense which I ask for a service which I think of some importance is, that if you meet me in the streets, you will not recognise me, and that in case it is too late to save you from being taken, you will not inform against me.” So saying he dispeared, leaving the poor President in great alarm. His first movement was to run to his secretary, snatch the papers, and throw them into the fire. Scarcely was that done, when in came Lord Chesterfield. He soon saw that his friend was in trouble, and asked him what could have happened. The President related what had happened, said that he had burnt his papers, and ordered a post-chaise to be ready at three o'clock in the morning, that he might quickly leave a place where a few moments’ longer stay might be fatal. Lord Chesterfield listened calmly to all this, and then said: “This is all very well, my dear President, but let us sit down and examine your adventure with our heads cool and calm." “You are joking," said the President; “it is impossible for one's head to be at ease when it hangs only by a thread!” “But pray," said the Earl, “who is this man who has so generously exposed himself to danger to save you from it? This seems not very natural. He may be a Frenchman, but the love of one's country does not lead men to travel into dangers which lie out of their way, especially for the sake of a person who is unknown to them. This man was not a friend of yours ?" "No." “ Was he badly dressed?" “Yes, very badly.” “Did he ask you for money ? ” « Not a
“ Can one suppose
farthing.” “Why, that is more extraordinary. But whence did he learn all that he told you ?” “Oh! I don't know at all; perhaps from the inquisitors themselves.” “Absurd !” said the Earl, “that council is the most secret in the world, and he is not the man to get near them.” “Perhaps he is one of their spies,” said the President. “Perhaps not,” said the Earl. a foreigner to be a spy, and that spy clad like a beggar, while he is employed in a calling for which he must be well paid ; and, again, that spy betrays his masters to you at the hazard of being strangled, if you inform against him, or if he is suspected of having assisted you to escape. It's all a joke, depend upon it, my friend.” “ What can it be, then ? " said the President. “I am thinking about it,” said the Earl. Having puzzled themselves to no purpose, the President still persisted in leaving the place immediately, when Lord Chesterfield, after walking about the room, apparently in a deep study, stopped short, and putting his hand to his forehead, as if a sudden thought had struck him, said, very gravely, “President, listen to me. An idea has just come into my head. Yes, that must be the man; I have not the least doubt about it.” " What man ? said the President; “ if you know who he is, pray tell me quickly.” “Oh, yes,” was the answer ; “I know him well enough. He was sent by one Lord Chesterfield, who wished to prove to you by experience that, “An ounce of common sense is worth a hundredweight of wit.'" The President never forgave him for the joke.
Now this anecdote not only illustrates the great distinction between the two great peoples, the English and French, but it will guide also to some knowledge of the meaning of this much desiderated thing—common sense.
It is obvious that there are two ways or methods with wisdom. There is wisdom resulting from experience or reflection. It generally comes late in life, sometimes too late to effect much good for its owner. There is another kind of wisdom which results from perception. The keen mind instantly reaches conclusions not by hasty generalisation, but by judicious comparison. In the story we have just related the great probability is that a common-sense Englishman would have put tho questions with which Chesterfield tantalised his friend.
He would not have leaped so rapidly as Montesquieu to the flames with his papers. He would have judged and compared. Now the greatest want of mankind is a habit of observation, a power of reading the meaning of little things, of forming a judgment upon trifles. We frequently hear of men taking a common-sense view of matters, of making a common-sense speech, of a common sense book. If this language were translated it would perhaps mean that such-andsuch observations were addressed to the universal perceptions of men, to the understanding,-in fine, they were addressed to the sense, they were vested in sensible language or imagery, and were founded on what all men would feel to be true without any long analysis or reflection. Coleridge, our great thinker and teacher, makes a distinction, and a little reflection (for this does not belong to those perceived by common sense) will show the reader that it is a very natural and necessary distinction between the understanding and
“ Reason is the power of universal and necessary convictions, the source and substance of truths above sense, and having their evidence in themselves.” On the other hand, the judgments of the understanding are binding only in relation to the objects of our senses, which we reflect under the forms of the understanding. It is, as Leighton rightly defines it,“ the faculty of judging according to the sense.” This is common sense. It is certain that there are two kinds of knowledge. They may be perhaps denominated perceptions and previsions or intuitions. Some objects are selfluminous; they shine by their own light, and can only be perceived by light reflected from themselves. But other objects are perceived by light reflected from the mind. Some things are upanimously agreed upon by the universal testimony of mankind, because they can only be beheld in one light; but objects that depend for their definiteness upon the amount of illumination in the mind may be variously described, because beheld through various atmospheres; and this may be the reason why men are agreed upon objects that may be seen, felt, or heard, but are not agreed upon things which must be perceived by faith or by the higher reason. After all common sense principally consists in a nice, concise, discriminating calculation of cause and effect, putting these in all the concerns of life in their proper relation to each other. Some who have done this very accurately in the higher regions of thought have been entirely unable to do it in the ordinary affairs of life. Their abstraction or attention to matters of mental interest called them away from objects nearer home, and this bas very often given to highly distinguished men a laughable and most incongruous notoriety, making their general character to contrast strangely with some exceptional incident. I may perhaps afford some illustrative pleasantry to these pages if I take two or three illustrative instances. Mr.Cottle, in his “Memorials of Coleridge," presents toustheludicrous picture of three of the greatest poets of the age in a puzzle together in the vain attempt to take off a horse's collar. They could all solve problems in mathematical science, they had all Divine intuitions within; but here they were fairly worsted. I led the horse to the stable,” says Mr. Cottle, himself too a poet," when a great perplexity arose. I removed the harness without difficulty, but after many strenuous attempts I could not remove the collar. In despair I called for
assistance, when aid soon drew near. Mr. Wordsworth brought his ingenuity into exercise, but, after several unsuccessful efforts, he relinquished the achievement as a thing altogether impracticable. Mr. Coleridge now tried his hand, but showed no more groominy skill than his predecessors, for, after twisting the poor horse's neck almost to strangulation and the great danger of his eyes, he gave up the useless task, pronouncing that the horse's head must have grown (gout or dropsy) since the collar was put on; for he said ' it was a downright impossibility for such a huge os frontis to pass through so narrow a collar !' Juet at this instant a servant-girl came near, and, understanding the cause of our consternation, ' La, master !' said she, 'you don't go about the work in the right way. You should do like this,' when, turning the collar completely upside down, she slipped it off in a moment, to our great humiliation and wonderment, each satisfied afresh that there were heights of knowledge in the world to which we had not attained." There is a ludicrous circumstance related in the letters of Horace Walpole, also tending to illustrate the same dreamy obliviousness of scientific minds to what might be supposed to be most simple and obvious. “I must add,” says Horace Walpole, “a curious story, which I believe will surprise your Italian surgeons as much as it amazed the faculty here. A sailor who had broken his leg was advised to communicate his case to the Royal Society. The account he gave was that, having fallen from the top of the mast and fractured his leg, he had it dressed with tar and oakum, and yet in three days was able to walk as well as before the accident. The story at first appeared incredible, as no such efficacious qualities were known in tar, and still less in oakum; nor was a poor sailor to be credited on his own bare assertion of so wonderful a cure. The Society very reasonably demanded a fuller relation, and, I suppose, a corroboration of evidence. Many doubted whether the leg had been really broken. That part of the story had been amply verified. Still it was difficult to believe that the man had made use of no other applications than tar and oakum, and how they should cure a broken leg in three days, even if they could cure it at all, was a matter of the utmost wonder. Several letters passed between the Society and the patient, who persevered in the most solemn asseverations of having used no other remedies, and it does appear beyond a doubt that the man spoke the truth. It is a little uncharitable, but I fear that there are surgeons who might not like the abbreviations of attendance and expense. But on the other hand you will be charmed with the plain, honest simplicity of the sailor. In a postscript to his last letter he added these words: 'I forgot to tell your honours that the leg was a wooden one !' What would one have given to have been present and seen the foolish faces of the wise assembly!”