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Phaethon: Loose Thoughts For Loose Thinkers
by [?]

“Silence, raver!” cried Templeton, throwing himself on the grass in fits of laughter. “So the Professor’s grandchildren will have either turned Papists, or be bowing down before rusty locomotives and broken electric telegraphs? But, my good friend, you surely do not take Professor Windrush for a fair sample of the great American people?”

“God forbid that so unpractical a talker should be a sample of the most practical people upon earth. The Americans have their engineers, their geographers, their astronomers, their scientific chemists; few indeed, but such as bid fair to rival those of any nation upon earth. But these, like other true workers, hold their tongues and do their business.”

“And they have a few indigenous authors too: you must have read the ‘Biglow Papers,’ and the ‘Fable for Critics,’ and last but not least, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’?”

“Yes; and I have had far less fear for Americans since I read that book; for it showed me that there was right healthy power, artistic as well as intellectual, among them, even now-ready, when their present borrowed peacocks’ feathers have fallen off, to come forth and prove that the Yankee Eagle is a right gallant bird, if he will but trust to his own natural plumage.”

“And they have a few statesmen also.”

“But they are curt, plain-spoken, practical-in everything antipodal to the knot of hapless men, who, unable from some defect or morbidity to help on the real movement of their nation, are fain to get their bread with tongue and pen, by retailing to ‘silly women,’ ‘ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth,’ second-hand German eclecticisms, now exploded even in the country where they arose, and the very froth and scum of the Medea’s caldron, in which the disjecta membra of old Calvinism are pitiably seething.”

“Ah! It has been always the plan, you know, in England, as well as in America, courteously to avoid taking up a German theory till the Germans had quite done with it, and thrown it away for something new. But what are we to say of those who are trying to introduce into England these very Americanised Germanisms, as the only teaching which can suit the needs of the old world?”

“We will, if we are in a vulgar humour, apply to them a certain old proverb about teaching one’s grandmother a certain simple operation on the egg of the domestic fowl; but we will no less take shame to ourselves, as sons of Alma Mater, that such nonsense can get even a day’s hearing, either among the daughters of Manchester manufacturers, or among London working men. Had we taught them what we were taught in the schools, Templeton-“

“Alas, my friend, we must ourselves have learnt it first. I have no right to throw stones at the poor Professor, for I could not answer him.”

“Do not suppose that I can either. All I say is-mankind has not lived in vain. Least of all has it lived in vain during the last eighteen hundred years. It has gained something of eternal truth in every age, and that which it has gained is as fresh and young now as ever; and I will not throw away the bird in the hand for any number of birds in the bush.”

“Especially when you suspect most of them to be only wooden pheasants, set up to delude poachers. Well, you are far more of a Philister and a Conservative than I thought you.”

“The New is coming, I doubt not; but it must grow organically out of the Old-not root the old up, and stick itself full-grown into the place thereof, like a French tree of liberty-sure of much the same fate. Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid already, in spiritual things or in physical; as the Professor and his school will surely find.”