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Auguste Comte
by [?]

Instead of molding her to his liking, Comte was being kneaded into animal crackers for her amusement.

Then we find him writing to a friend, confessing that his hopes were ashes; but in his misery he grows philosophical and says, “It is all good, for now I am driven back to my work, and from now on my life is dedicated to science.”

No doubt the lady was as much disappointed in the venture as was the husband, but he, being literary, eased his grief by working it up into art, while her side of the story lies buried deep in silence glum.

In choosing the names of philosophers for this series, no thought was given in the selection beyond the achievements of the men. But it now comes to me with a slight surprise that seven out of the twelve were unmarried, and probably it would have been as well–certainly for the wives–if the other five had remained bachelors, too. Xantippe would have been the gainer, even if Socrates did miss his discipline.

To center on science and devote one’s thought to philosophy produces a being more or less deformed. There is great danger in specialization: Nature sacrifices the man in order to get the thing done. Abstract thought unfits one for domestic life; for, to a degree, it separates a man from his kind.

The proper advice to a woman about to marry a philosopher would be, “Don’t!”

* * * * *

The advantage of a little actual hardship in one’s life is that it makes existence real and not merely literary. Comte was inclined to thrive on martyrdom. His restless, eager mind invented troubles, if there were no real ones, but he was wise enough to know this, as he once said: “The trials of life are all of one size–imaginary pains are as bad as real ones, and men who have no actual troubles usually conjure forth a few. Thus far, happily, I am not reduced to this strait.”

We thus see that the true essence of philosophy was there. Comte got a gratification by dissecting, analyzing and classifying his emotions. All was grist that came to his mill.

When he was twenty-eight the Positive Philosophy had assumed such proportions in his mind that he announced a course of twelve lectures on the subject.

He was jealous of his discoveries, and was intent on getting all the credit that was due him. Money he cared little for; power and reputation to him were the only gods worth appeasing. The thought of domestic joy was forever behind, but philosophy came as a solace. A prospectus was sent out and tickets were issued. The landlady where he boarded offered her parlor and her boarder, second floor back, for the benefit of science. Several zealous denizens of the Latin Quarter made a canvass, and enough tickets were sold so that the philosopher felt that at last the world was really at his feet.

When the afternoon for the first lecture arrived, no carriages blocked the street, and as only about half of those who had purchased tickets appeared, the difficulties of the landlady and her nervous boarder were much lessened.

There was one man at this first lecture who was profoundly impressed, and if we had his testimony, and none other, we might well restrain our smiles. That man was Alexander von Humboldt. In various passages Humboldt does Comte the honor of quoting from him, and in one instance says, “He has summed up certain phases of truth better than they have ever been expressed before.”

Little did the landlady guess that her crusty, crabbed boarder was firing a shot that would be heard ’round the world, and surely the gendarme on that particular beat never heard it–so small and commonplace are the beginnings of great things!