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My Wardrobe
by [?]

Changing your mind is for all the world like changing your clothes. You may easily make a mistake, especially if the process is performed in the dark. And, as a matter of fact, a man is usually more or less in the dark at the moment in which he changes his mind. An absent-minded friend of mine went upstairs the other day to prepare for a social function. To the consternation of his unhappy wife he came down again wearing his old gardening suit. A man may quite easily make a mistake. Before he enters upon the process of robing he must be sure of three things: (1) He must be quite clear that the clothes he proposes to doff are unsuitable. (2) He must be sure that his wardrobe contains more appropriate apparel. (3) And he must be certain that the folded garments that he takes from the drawer are actually those that he made up his mind to wear. It is a good thing, similarly, to change one’s mind. But the thing must be done very deliberately, and even with scientific precision, or a man may make himself perfectly ridiculous. Let me produce a pair of illustrations, one from Boswell, which is good; and one from the Bible, which is better.

(1) Dr. Samuel Johnson was a frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Richardson, the famous novelist. One day, whilst Johnson was there, Hogarth called. Hogarth soon started a discussion with Mr. Richardson as to the justice of the execution of Dr. Cameron. ‘While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, and rolling himself about in a strange, ridiculous manner. He concluded that he was an idiot, whom his relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as being a very good man. To his great surprise, however, this figure stalked forwards to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting, and all at once took up the argument. He displayed such a power of eloquence that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually imagined that he was inspired.’ Thus far Boswell.

(2) Paul was shipwrecked, as everybody knows, at Malta. He was gathering sticks for the fire, when a viper, thawed by the warm flesh and the fierce flame, fastened on his finger. When the natives saw the snake hanging on his hand, they regarded it as a judgement, and said that no doubt he was a murderer. But when they saw that he was none the worse for the bite, ‘they changed their minds, and said that he was a god !’

Hogarth thought Johnson was a lunatic. He changed his mind, and said he was inspired !

The Maltese thought Paul was a murderer. They changed their minds, and said he was a god !

They were all wrong, and always wrong. It is the case of my poor absent-minded friend over again. It was quite clear that his clothes wanted changing, but he put on the wrong suit. It was evident that Hogarth’s verdict on Johnson wanted revising, but he rushed from Scylla to Charybdis. It was manifest that the Maltese view of Paul needed correcting, but they swung, like a pendulum, from one ludicrous extreme to the opposite. In each case, the hero reappears, wearing the wrong clothes. In each case he only makes himself ridiculous. If my mind wants changing, I must be very cautious as to the way in which I do it.

And, of course, a man
must sometimes change both his clothes and his mind–his mind at any rate. How can you go to a conjuring entertainment, for example, without changing your mind a hundred times in the course of the performance? For a second you think that the vanished billiard ball is here. Then, in a trice, you change your mind, and conclude that it is there ! First, you believe that, appearances notwithstanding, the magician really has no hat in his hand. Then, in a flash, you change your mind, and you fancy he has two ! You think for a moment that the clever trick is done in this way, and then you become certain that it is done in that ! I once witnessed in London a very clever artist, who walked up and down the stage, passing midway behind a screen. And as he reappeared on the other side, after having been hidden from sight for only a fraction of a second, he was differently dressed. He stepped behind the screen a soldier, and emerged a policeman. He disappeared a huntsman, he reappeared a clergyman. He went a convict, he came again a sailor. He wore a score of uniforms in almost as many seconds.