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mised he would yet grow into that which a mere Duck could never be. For the creature which is by nature a Swan, and which will some day be known for such by all, may in truth be, at an early stage in its development, an uglier, more offensive, more impudent and forward, more awkward and more insufferable animal, than the creature which is by nature a Duck, and which will never be taken for anything more.
Yes, many men, with the gift of genius in them: and many more, with no gift of genius but with a little more industry and ability than their fellows: are regarded as little better than fools by the people among whom they live; more especially if they live in remote places in the country, or in little country towns. Some day, the Swans acknowledge the Ugly Duck for their kinsman: and then all the quacking tribe around him recognize him as a Swan. Possibly, indeed, even then, some of the neighbouring ducks, who knew him all his life, and accordingly held him cheap till the world fixed his mark, will still insist that he is no more than an extremely Ugly Duck, whom people (mainly out of spite against the ducks who were his early acquaintances) persist in absurdly calling a Swan. I have beheld a Duck absolutely foam at the mouth, when I said something implying that another bird (whose name you would know if I mentioned it) was a Swan. For the Duck, at College, had been a contemporary of the Swan: he had even played at marbles with the Swan, in boyhood: and so, though the Swan was quite fixed as being a Swan, the Duck never could bear to recognize him as such. On the contrary, he held him as an overrated, impudent, purse-proud, conceited, disagreeable, and hideously Ugly Duck. I remember, too, la very venomous and malicious old Duck, who never had done anything but quack (in an envious and uncharitable way, too) through all the years which made him very old and exceedingly tough, giving an account of the extravagances and bombastic flights of a young Swan. The Duck
vilely exaggerated the sayings of that youthful Swan. He put into the Swan's mouth words which the Swan had never uttered: and ascribed to the Swan sentiments (of a heretical character) which he very well knew the Swan abhorred. But even upon the Duck's own showing, there was the promise of something fine about the injudicious and warmhearted young Swan: and a little candour and a little honesty might have acknowledged this. And it appeared to me a poor sight, to behold the ancient Duck, with all his feathers turned the wrong way with spite, standing beside a dirty puddle, and stretching his neck, and gobbling and quacking out his impotent malice, as the beautiful Swan sailed gracefully overhead, perfectly unaware of the malignity he was exciting in the muscle which served the Duck for a heart.
It makes me ferocious, I confess it, to hear a Duck, or a company of Ducks, abusing and vilifying a Swan. And a good many Ducks have a tendency so to do. If you ask one of very many Ducks, 'What kind of a bird is A?' (A being a Swan), the answer will be, 'Oh, a very Ugly Duck!' If the present writer had the faintest pretension to be esteemed a Swan, he would not say this. But he knows, very well indeed, that he can pretend to no more than to plod humbly and laboriously along upon the earth, while other creatures sail through the empyrean. He has seen, with wonder, several ill-natured attacks upon himself in print, the gravamen of the charge against him being that he does not and cannot write like A, B, and C, who are great geniuses. Pray, Mr. Snarling, did he ever pretend to write like A, B, and C? No: he pretends to nothing more than to produce a homely material (with something real about it) that may suit homely folk. And so long as a great number of people are content to read what he is able to write, you may rely upon it he will go on writing. As for you, Mr. Snarling, of course you can write like A, B, and C. And in that case, your obvious course is to proceed to do so.
And when you do so, you may be sure of this: that the present writer will never twist nor misrepresent your words, nor tell lies to your prejudice.
It is a curious and interesting spectacle, to hear two Ducks discussing the merits of a Swan. I have known a Duck attack a Swan in print. The Swan was an author. The Duck attacked the Swan on the ground that his style wanted elegance. And I assure you the attack, for want of elegance of style, was made in language not decently grammatical. You may have heard a Duck attack a Swan in conversation. The Swan was a pretty girl. The charge was that the Swan's taste in dress was bad. You looked at the Duck, and were aware that the Duck's taste was execrable. Would that we could see ourselves as others see us!' Then you would no longer see such sights as this, which we may have witnessed in our youth. Two Ducks viciously abusing a Swan, flying by: and pointing out that the Swan had lost an eye, also a foot: and with wearisome iteration, dwelling on those enormities. And when you looked carefully at the spiteful creatures, wagging their heads together, hissing and quacking, you were aware that (strange to say) each of them had but one foot and one eye: and that, in short, in every respect in which the Swan was bad, the Ducks were about fifty times worse. you may have known a very small and shabby Duck, who scoffed at a noble Swan, because (as he said) the Swan had no logic. Yet whenever that Duck himself attempted to argue any question, he had but one course which was, scandalously to misrepresent and distort something said by the man maintaining the other opinion; and then to try to raise against that man a howl of heresy. Not indeed that that man, or any one of his friends, cared a brass farthing for what the shabby little Duck thought or said of him. Yet the Duck showed all the will to be a viper, though nature had constrained him to abide a Duck. And this was the Duck's peculiar logic.
At this point the reader may pause, and ponder what has been said. If exhausted by the mental effort of attention, he may take a glass of wine. And then he is requested to observe, that the writer considers himself to have made but one step in advance since he finished the legend of the Ugly Duck, with which the present work commenced. That step in advance was to the Principle:
THAT SOME MEN ARE HELD IN LITTLE ESTIMATION BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE AMONG
WHOM THEY LIVE. These are my
Of course, not all misplaced men are what I understand by Ugly Ducks. For there are men who are misplaced by being put in places a great deal too good for them. You may have known individuals who could not open their mouths but you heard the unmistakeable quackquack, who yet gave themselves all the airs of Swans. And probably a good many people honestly took them for Swans and other people, prudent, safe, and somewhat sneaky people, pretended that they took them for Swans, while in fact they did not. And when perspicacious persons privately whispered to one another, That fellow Stuckup is only a duck,' it was because in fact he was no more. Yet Stuckup did not think himself so. I have not seen many remarkable human beings; but I have studied a few with attention: and I can say, with sincerity, that the peculiar animal known as the Beggar on Horseback is by far the greatest and most important human being I have ever known. Probably, my reader, you still hold your breath with awe, as you remember your first admission to the presence of a person whom you saw to be on horseback, but did not know to be a beggar who had attained that eminence. You afterwards learned the fact; and then you wondered you did not see it sooner. For now the beggar's dignity appeared to you to bear the like relation to that of the true man in such a place, that the strut of a king with a tinsel crown in a booth
at a fair, bears to the quiet assured air of Queen Victoria walking into the House of Lords to open Parliament.
It is an unspeakable blessing for a man, that he should be put down among people who can understand him. For no matter whether a man is thought a fool by his neighbours because he is too good for them, or because he is really a fool, the depressing effect upon his own mind is the same; unless indeed he have the confidence which we might suppose would have gone with the head and heart of Shakspeare, if Shakspeare appreciated himself justly. Very likely he did not. John Foster, great man as he was, could not have liked to see the little meetinghouses at which he held forth gradually getting empty, as the people of the congregation went off to some fluent blockhead with powerful lungs and a vacuous head. For many a day Archbishop Whately of Dublin was a misplaced man: feared and suspected just because that clear head and noble heart were so high above the sympathy or even the comprehension of many of those over whom he was set. A bitter little sectary would have been, at first, an infinitely more popular Prelate. And the writer cannot refrain from saying with what delight, but a few months before that great man died, he saw, by the enthusiastic reception which the archbishop met, rising to make a short speech at a public meeting in Dublin of three thousand people, that justice was done him at last. He had found the place which was his due. They knew the noble Swan they had got: and knew that the honour he derived from the archiepiscopal throne, was as a sand-grain when compared with the honour which he reflected on it. Yet he found the time hard to bear, when he was undervalued because he was too good: when men vilified him because they could not understand him. 'I have tried to look as if I did not feel it,' he said; 'but it has shortened my life.' Whereas our friend Carper, who for ten years past has held an eminent place for
which he is about as fit as a cow, and which he has made ridiculous through his incompetence, — the wrong man in the wrong place, if such a thing ever was,-is entirely pleased with himself, and will never have his life shortened by any consideration of his outrageous incapacity. There were years of Arnold's life at Rugby during which he was an unappreciated man, just because he rose so high above the ordinary standard. If the sun were something new, and if you showed it for the first time to a company of blear-eyed men, they would doubtless say it was a most disagreeable object. And if there were no people of thoughtful hearts and of refined culture in the world, the author of In Memoriam would no doubt pass among mankind for a fool. There are people who, through a large part of their life, are above the high-water-mark of popular appreciation. Wordsworth was so. He needed 'an audience fit;' and it for many a day was 'few.' The popular taste had to be educated into caring for him: it was as if you had commanded a band of children to drink bitter ale and to like it. Even Jeffrey could write, 'This will never do!' And you miss people as completely by shooting over their heads, as by hitting the ground a dozen yards on this side of them. A donkey, in all honesty, prefers thistles to pine-apple. Yet the poor pine-apple is ready to feel aggrieved.
This misjudging of people, because they rise above the sphere of your judgment, begins early and lasts late. I have known a clever 'boy, under the authority of a tyrannical and uncultivated governor, who was savagely bullied and ignominiously ordered out of the room, because he declared that he admired the Hart
leap Well. His governor declared that he was a fool, a false pretender, a villain. His governor sketched his future career by declaring that he would be hanged in this world, and sent to perdition in the next. All this was because he possessed faculties which his uncultivated tyrant did not possess. It was as if a stone-deaf man should torture a
lover of music because he ventured to maintain that there is such a thing as sound. It was as if a man whose musical taste was educated up to the point of admiring the Ratcatcher's Daughter, should vilipend and suspend by hemp a human being who should declare there was something beyond that in Beethoven and Mendelssohn. And I believe that very often, thoughtful little children are subjected to the great trial of being brought up in a house where they are utterly misunderstood, by guardians and even by parents quite unequal to understanding them. And this has a very souring effect on the little heart. There are boys and girls, living under their fathers' roof, who in their deepest thoughts are as thoroughly alone as if they dwelt at Tadmor in the Wilderness. There are children who would sooner go and tell their donkey what was most in their mind, than they would tell it to their father or their mother. In some cases, the lack of power to understand or appreciate becomes still more marked as childhood
advances to maturity. You may have known a man, recognized by the world as a very wise man, for expressing to the world the selfsame views and opinions whose expression had caused him to be adjudged a fool at home. 'Do you know, Charlotte has written a book; and it's better than likely:' was all the father of its author had to say about Jane Eyre. What a picture of a searing, blighting home atmosphere! You cannot read the story without thinking of evergreens crisping up under a withering east wind of three weeks' duration. And I could point to a country, in Africa, where men, who would be recognized as great men elsewhere, are thought very little of: because there is hardly anybody who can appreciate them and their attaiments. I have known, there, an accomplished scholar, who in the neighbouring kingdom of Biafra would be made a defrag (corresponding to our Bishop), who, living where he does, when spoken of at all, is usually spoken of contemptuously as A DOMINIE;
corresponding to our schoolmaster or College tutor, but the undignified way of stating the fact. Such a man is a great Greek scholar: but if he dwell among Africans who know nothing earthly about Greek, and who care even less for it, what does it profit him? Alas, for that misplaced man! Thought an Ugly Duck because he lives at Heliopolis: while four hundred miles off, in the great University of Biafra, he would be hailed as a noble Swan, by kindred Swans!
Almost the only order of educated men who have it not in their power to live among educated folk, are the clergy. Almost all other cultivated men may choose for their daily companions people like themselves. But in the Church, you have doubtless known innumerable instances in which men of very high culture were set down in remote rural districts, where there was not a soul with whom they had a thought in common within a dozen miles. It is all right, of course: in that broader sense in which everything is so and doubtless the cure of souls, however rude and ignorant, is a work worthy of the best human heart and head that God ever made. Still, it is sad to see a razor somewhat inefficiently cutting a block, for which a great axe with a notched edge is the right thing. It is sad to see a cultivated, sensitive man, in the kind of parish where I have several times seen such. You may be able to think of one, an elegant scholar, a profound theologian, a man of most refined taste, taken unhappily from the common-room of a College, and set down in a cold upland district, where there were no trees and where the wind almost invariably blew from the east: among people with high cheek-bones and dried-up complexions, of Radical politics and Dissenting tendencies, dense in ignorance and stupidity, and impregnable in self-confidence and selfconceit and just as capable of appreciating their clergyman's graceful genius as an equal number of codfish would be. And what was a yet more melancholy sight than even the sight of the first inconsistency
between the man and his place, was the sight of the way in which the man year by year degenerated till he grew just the man for the place; and only a middling man for it. Yes, it was miserable to see how the Swan gradually degenerated into an Ugly Duck: how his views got morbid, and his temper ungenial, how his accomplishments rusted, and his conversational powers died through utter lack of exercise: till after a good many years you beheld him a soured, wrong-headed, cantankerous, petty, disappointed man. For luck was against him: and he had no prospect but that of remaining in the bleak upland parish, swept by the east wind, as long as he might live. And after a little while, he ceased entirely to go back to the University where he would have found fit associates: and he grew so disagreeable that his old friends did not care to visit him, and listen to his moaning. Now, you cannot long keep much above what you are rated at. At least, you must have an iron constitution of mind if you do. I daresay sometimes in old days an honourable and good man was constrained by circumstances to become a Publican: I mean, of course, a Jewish Publican. He meant to be honest and kind, even in that unpopular sphere of life. But when all men shied him: when his old friends cut him: when he was made to feel, daily, that in the common estimation Publicans and Sinners ranked together: I have no doubt earthly but he would sink to the average of his class. Or, as the sweetest wine becomes the sourest vinegar, he might not impossibly prove a sinner above all the other Publicans of the district.
But not merely do ignorant and vulgar persons fail to appreciate at his true value a cultivated man: more than this: the fact of his cultivation may positively go to make vulgar and ignorant persons dislike and underrate him. My friend Brown is a clergyman of the Scotch Church, and a man who has seen a little of the world. Like most educated Scotchmen now-a-days, he
speaks the English language if not with an English accent, at least with an accent which is not disagreeably Scotch. He does not call a boat a bott; nor a horse a hoarrse; nor philosophy philozzophy; nor a road a rodd. He does not pronounce the word is as if it were spelt eez, nor talk of a lad of speerit. Still less does he talk of salvahtion, justificahtion, sanctificahtion, and the like. He does not begin his church service by giving out either a sawm or a samm: in which two disgusting forms I have sometimes known the word psalm disguised. Brown told me that once on a time he preached in the church of a remote country parish, where parson and people were equally uncivilized. And after service the minister confided to him that he did not think the congregation could have liked his sermon. 'Ye see,' said the minister, 'thawt's no the style o' langidge they're used wi'!' My friend replied, not without asperity, that he trusted it was not.
But I could see, when he told me the story, that he did not quite like to be an Ugly Duck: that it irked him to think that, in fact, some vulgar boor with a different style o'. langidge would have been much more acceptable to the people of Muffburgh. I am very happy to believe that such parishes as Muffburgh are becoming few: and that a scholar and a gentleman will rarely indeed find that he had better, for immediate popularity, have been a clodhopper and an ignoramus. You have heard, no doubt, how a dissenting preacher in England demolished the parish clergyman, in a discourse against worldly learning. The clergyman, newly come, was an eminent scholar. 'Do ye think Powle knew Greek?' said his opponent, perspiring all over. And the people saw how useless and indeed prejudicial was the knowledge of that heathen tongue.
And this reminds me that it will certainly make a man an Ugly Duck to be, in knowledge or learning, in advance of the people among whom he lives. A very wise man, if he lives among people who are all fools, may find it expedient, like