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Apology for Idlers by Robert Louis Stevenson

Apology for Idlers by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Published by: cutshaw on Nov 11, 2008
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06/16/2009

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 An Apology for Idlers
by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Boswell: We grow weary when idle.”
 
“Johnson: That is, sir, because others being busy,
we want company; but if we were idle, there wouldbe no growing weary; we should all entertain one
another.”
 
 
 
 
 Just now, when every one is bound, underpain of a decree in absence convicting themof LESE-respectability, to enter on somelucrative profession, and labour therein withsomething not far short of enthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party who are content when they have enough, and like to look onand enjoy in the meanwhile, savours a littleof bravado and gasconade. And yet thisshould not be. Idleness so called, which doesnot consist in doing nothing, but in doing agreat deal not recognised in the dogmaticformularies of the ruling class, has as good aright to state its position as industry itself. Itis admitted that the presence of people whorefuse to enter in the great handicap race forsixpenny pieces, is at once an insult and adisenchantment for those who do. A finefellow (as we see so many) takes hisdetermination, votes for the sixpences, and in
the emphatic Americanism, it ―goes for‖
them. And while such an one is ploughingdistressfully up the road, it is not hard to
 
understand his resentment, when heperceives cool persons in the meadows by the wayside, lying with a handkerchief over theirears and a glass at their elbow. Alexander istouched in a very delicate place by thedisregard of Diogenes. Where was the glory of having taken Rome for these tumultuousbarbarians, who poured into the Senatehouse, and found the Fathers sitting silentand unmoved by their success? It is a sorething to have laboured along and scaled thearduous hilltops, and when all is done, findhumanity indifferent to your achievement.Hence physicists condemn the unphysical;financiers have only a superficial tolerationfor those who know little of stocks; literary persons despise the unlettered; and people of all pursuits combine to disparage those whohave none.But though this is one difficulty of thesubject, it is not the greatest. You could notbe put in prison for speaking againstindustry, but you can be sent to Coventry forspeaking like a fool. The greatest difficulty  with most subjects is to do them well;therefore, please to remember this is anapology. It is certain that much may bejudiciously argued in favour of diligence; only there is something to be said against it, andthat is what, on the present occasion, I haveto say. To state one argument is notnecessarily to be deaf to all others, and that aman has written a book of travels inMontenegro, is no reason why he shouldnever have been to Richmond.It is surely beyond a doubt that peopleshould be a good deal idle in youth. For
 
though here and there a Lord Macaulay may escape from school honours with all his witsabout him, most boys pay so dear for theirmedals that they never afterwards have a shotin their locker, and begin the worldbankrupt. And the same holds true during allthe time a lad is educating himself, orsuffering others to educate him. It must havebeen a very foolish old gentleman whoaddressed Johnson at Oxford in these words:
―Young man, ply your book diligently now,
and acquire a stock of knowledge; for when years come upon you, you will find thatporing upon books will be but an irksome
task.‖ The old gentleman seems to have
beenunaware that many other things besidesreading grow irksome, and not a few becomeimpossible, by the time a man has to usespectacles and cannot walk without a stick.Books are good enough in their own way, butthey are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.It seems a pity to sit, like the Lady of Shalott,peering into a mirror, with your back turnedon all the bustle and glamour of reality. Andif a man reads very hard, as the old anecdotereminds us, he will have little time forthought.
 
 
 
If you look back on your own education, Iam sure it will not be the full, vivid,instructive hours of truantry that you regret; you would rather cancel some lack-lustreperiods between sleep and waking in theclass. For my own part, I have attended agood many lectures in my time. I stillremember that the spinning of a top is a caseof Kinetic Stability. I still remember that

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